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The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Lost Souls, Part I

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

Norna suddenly arched as if electricity was coursing through her veins. "Maman!" she screamed. Flicker caught her as she fell; she didn't turn on him, just stared, with wild, dizzy eyes. "Our time is almost up," she said in Old Norse, breathlessly. "Our time is almost up. Our time is almost up."
"Norn." Flicker shook her. "We're on track. Keep it together."
She gasped and nodded.
"I don't understand," said Luthien.
"The Valkyrie," said Flicker.
"My only chance," said Norna.
"Can you guys speak in complete sentences?" Berryn complained.
"The Valkyrie is gone," said Norna. "I am the only one left." She straightened, the color returning to her face, and pushed Flicker away. Norna stood on her own. "For now. And I will do what I must."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, the Horse
Author: Laura Redish (under the influence of Jeffy)
Storyline: A Horse Is A Horse
Title of Post: A Bitching Horse

Ebreth came out onto the porch with his bag, looking strangely back in. "Jack Paris just tried to rob me," he said.
"Oh, Grendel," sighed Khyrisse. "Who's possessing him?"
"Nobody very competent," said Ebreth.
Just then a liver-bay gelding trotted up the street. He stopped when he saw them in front of the inn. "The King of Kings must di-i-i-i-i-ie!" he whinnied at Skitch, and pawed the ground.
Ebreth blinked at him. "It's a horse of the apocalypse."
Tarrin came out onto the patio, staring at the horse. "I sense-- determination!" he cried. "And humiliation. But most of all, determination. This horse wants to help us! He is a bitching horse!"
"Bitchin'," corrected Skitch, patting the horse's nose. "You don't pronounce that g."
"Well, that does it," said Ebreth. "This party member is not fitting in the carriage."

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings and Worse
Title of Post: Too Much TV Land

"Why not?" Ariath asked Ebreth.
"Well, a horse is a horse," Ebreth explained.
"Of course," Ariath said.
"Of course," Khyrisse agreed.
"And no one can talk to a horse," Ebreth continued.
"Of course," Ariath repeated.
"That is," Tarrin suggested, "of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister--"
"Fred," the horse replied. "The King of the Kings must die."
"What do you think he means?" Khyrisse asked Tarrin.
"I'd go right to the source," Tarrin answered.
"And ask the horse?" Ebreth demanded incredulously.
"He'll give you an answer," Tarrin said.
"That's what you endorse?" Khyrisse asked him.
"Who ever heard of a talking horse?" Ebreth grumbled.
"Well," Tarrin offered, "listen to this..." He gestured at the horse.
"I am Mister Fred," the horse said. "The King of the Kings must diiiiiiiie."
"Diarian culture gets stranger every day," Ariath sighed.
"Hey, his tail is really short!" Skitch called from the back end. "It looks like someone cut the end of it off... just like the Rat!"

Character(s): Tarrin, Skitch, Ebreth, and Fred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: A Horse Is A Horse
Title of Post: Horse Kings?

Despite the idiotic conversation Tarrin had started about the horse, Skitch was still watching him eagerly as he crossed to the business end of the horse and took the tail from the boy. "Very old wound," he said, seriously.
"His tail is docked," said Ebreth, rolling his eyes. "He's a carriage horse or something."
"His owner did this?" exclaimed Tarrin, before he could stop himself. Sometimes the gratuitous cruelty of the barbarians still caught him off guard.
"Are you a carriage horse?" Skitch asked him.
"Noooooo," he whinnied. "I am the key to defeating the King of Kiiiiiiings."
"He's pretty dramatic for a horse," said Ebreth.
"OK," said Skitch, bouncing up and down. "My name is Wilbur. Call me Wilbur."
"Wiiiiiilbur," said Fred. "Follow meeeeeee."
Khyrisse winced. This meant she was going to need to find everyone. Khyrisse hated being the party leader.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Jack Paris Private Eye
Title of Post: Here's A Man Who Lives A Life Of Danger...

"Uh, Pieret?" Jack asked of the man with too many identities.
"What can I do for you, Jack?" Pieret asked.
"I think I accidentally left my, um... abacus... in your bag."
"What were you doing in my bag?" Pieret asked.
"I wasn't. I mean, I thought it was my bag. Can I look?"
"I'll look," Pieret sighed. He opened the satchel and started looking in it.
Jack peered into Pieret's satchel with all the subtlety of a Riklandic musical. Pieret glared at the mathematician. "Do you mind?" Pieret asked. "It's private."
"What? Oh, just, uh, trying to help," Jack lied unconvincingly. Pieret watched Jack as he felt in his satchel. He found no abacus. Jack was looking guiltily innocent. "It's not here," Pieret scowled, closing his bag with a snap and locking the clasp.
"Oh. Sorry to bother you." Jack shuffled off dejectedly.
"That's the least subtle man I've ever met," Pieret grumbled.
Inside the satchel, the rat made himself comfortable. The human was as good a distraction as he had promised.

Character(s): Khyrisse and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rat and Pony Show
Title of Post: I Just Don't Believe This...

Khyrisse stared at the talking horse and shook her head in bemusement. She thought about the years with Karellion, and then about the Sewer Tour. "You know... I almost preferred it when we didn't know anything and wandered around aimlessly, arguing," she murmured.
"What did you say, Khyrisse?"
She shook her head again. "Nothing. I'm going to go get everyone and we can... follow the horse, I guess." She eyed the Diarian Doctor Dolittle, her apprentice, and the horse with a dubious look. "Skitch, I am not renaming you Wilbur, and if you ever use the word kiljhac I'll wash your mouth out with lye."
Tarrin turned to look at her in astonishment.
"Is it a dirty word?" Skitch asked curiously.
"Very," Khyrisse said, perfectly serious, and went inside to find people. "If you don't have your things with you, folks, get them!" she called over her shoulder to those outside.

***
Valende slipped out of their room, still under her sanctuary spell, and found Jack, waiting at the end of the hallway. She reached out to touch his arm, just as he calculated her position in the hallway and looked directly at her. "That's so clever, Jack," she murmured, with a smile for him as she dropped the spell. "And so convenient. Most people are startled when I do that. I checked Ariath's things," she added, lowering her voice to a whisper.
"The rat is checking out Pieret's," Jack whispered back. "What did you find?"
"Mostly mage things," she sighed. "Spell components, a spellbook with her initials set in the cover, clothes, some money-- normal things. No thieves' tools or strange letters or anything like that. I did find some small knives that look a lot like the ones Skitch has, but..." She shrugged with a graceful roll of her shoulders.
Jack looked disappointed. "This isn't giving us the answers we need."
"It was a good idea anyway," Valende consoled him. "It's helping us find answers by the process of elimination, darling. And we still have one suspect to go."
"Pieret," he agreed. "I wonder what's keeping the rat?"

***
Khyrisse snapped the Carriage into the roadway with a gust of wind that tossed her curls around her face. Tarrin soothed the horse out of its momentary startlement. She tossed her backpack up onto the roof and climbed up after it. She stood there and looked around, counting heads. "Skitch, Tarrin, Ebreth, Ariath, Vas... we're missing half a dozen people, dammit. Ariath, where's your friend? Grimthane, I think it was?"
"Oops." Ariath raced into the inn.
"Vas, where's your sister?"
"Probably with Jack," he said, grinning up at her.
"Well, I couldn't find either of them. Care to give it a try? I'll be safe out here with everyone." She counted off on her fingers some more as Vas disappeared into the inn. "Grendel. Let's see, the rat will be with Jack... I hope... Ebreth?"
He came over to the Carriage and looked up at her as she leaned over the edge. "Yes?"
"Have you seen Cori or Pieret lately? I... um... seem to remember them disappearing after breakfast." She looked a little embarrassed, but smiled down at him impishly. "Shortly before our discussion about the rewards of valor."

Character(s): Ebreth, Tarrin, Skitch, and Fred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: A Horse Is A Horse
Title of Post: All The Pretty Little Horses

"Ah, yes," said Ebreth, and snapped. "I'll go find them. Wait here."
"Follow meeeeeeee," said the horse, impatiently, and kicked at the carriage with his left front hoof.
"Hey! You cut that out!" Khyrisse swatted at him.
"Will we be able to follow the bitchin' horse in the carriage?" said Tarrin, anxiously. "The carriage she move very fast."
"Are there horses in Diaria?" said Skitch.
"Of course, Skitch. The fastest, most beautiful horses in the world come from the Diaria."
Fred looked at Tarrin like he wanted to kick him in the pants.
"Cool! Khyrisse, can I have a Diari horse?"
"Skitch, if you go into Diaria, they will kill you," said Khyrisse, a little crossly.
Tarrin stood up straight and crossed his arms. "My people will not harm the Skitch. I am a priest of Pysiri and I will protect him."
Skitch looked touched. "Thanks, Doofus!"
"You are welcome, little wiener."
"So can I have a Diari horse, Khyrisse?"
"We'll discuss this later." The rest of the group filtered out of the Sturtevant inn. "Is everyone here? This is, uh--" Khyrisse felt dumber than she had in a long time. "This is Fred, the talking horse."

Character(s): Khyrisse and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rat and Pony Show
Title of Post: Because Everybody Knows That Fred Is An Asshole

"Well, I know who to make New Trade's Diari representative when he's old enough," Khyrisse groused, and climbed up onto the driver's seat. "I'm driving today, Vas. We won't be flying, so you're not missing much. Would you and Ariath take the roof?"
Vas shrugged with a smile. "Certainly, milady." He hopped up and placed a folded blanket on the roof, then gently helped Ariath to the prepared seat. Ariath fluttered her eyelashes up at him, and winked at Khyrisse as she passed her. Khyrisse quickly turned a snicker into an unconvincing cough. Skitch closed the door behind everyone and scrambled up to sit beside her and Ebreth. "All aboard!"
"Lead on, Fred," Khyrisse said, gesturing to the talking horse with her whip. She snapped the reins gently, and the team of spectral horses set off at a sedate pace after their guide. "Ebreth?" she murmured, once they were underway. "I hate to harp on the same old subject, but since when do horses talk?"
"I kind of wondered that myself," he said in her ear. "But how is this the same old subject?"
"I wish Flicker were here," Khyrisse sighed, very quietly. "I think we might have another demon possession on our hands. Like that girl that attacked us on our way here."

Character(s): Ebreth, Fred, the Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: The Need For Heroes

"Maybe you should tell Val not to heal him, then," Ebreth suggested into her ear. The horse wasn't going to hear them, of course. Ebreth just liked talking into her ear. "We'll keep an eye on him. He hasn't done anything weird yet, and if he does, we've got Cori."
That made a certain amount of sense. Khyrisse suddenly reined the spectral horses in as a smoking town pulled into view. "Merde!" she swore, softly. "What happened here?"
Fred pawed the ground impatiently. "Wiiiiiiilbur!" he whinnied. "Hurry up! We must break the chain to defeat the King of Kiiiiiiiiiiings!"
Khyrisse was going to get that kid. "His name is Skitch. And I want to find out what's going on here."
Valende cried out and jumped out of the coach, pointing. A wounded Sturtevanter was collapsed against the broken signpost. "Help us," he whispered.
Before Khyrisse could worry about it, Val was already healing the man. He didn't seem to be sucking her soul out or anything, though he did kind of press back from her. "You're using witchcraft on me," he said uneasily.
"I'm healing you," she said, a little offended.
He hesitated a long moment and then waved it away. "Witch or no, you must help us. Demons have sacked our town. We would flee this wicked place and move as far from the accursed rift as we can, but the demons have made off with--with many of our children." He seemed choked up. "We dare not leave them behind. Who knows what Tal-forsaken plans the demons have for them? Please, you must help us."
"Rift?" said Tarrin, seeming to blanch a little. "Where?"
"The riiiiiiiift," whinnied Fred. "We must go theeeeeere."
"No," pleaded the man. "You must go to the fallen temple of Tal and save Mick and the others."
Ebreth sighed. "Jack? What's the rat say?"
"Uhhhhhhh..." said Jack. "The rat is... sleeping. Yeah, he's sleeping."
"Okay, then it's your call, Khyrisse."

Character(s): The Rat
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: What The Rat Saw
Title of Post: Yummy Yummy Yummy I've Got Evil In My Tummy

The Rat was in familiar territory. He had gotten used to satchels. They were a lot easier to travel in than cages. This particular satchel, though, was a rat's dream. Aside from a variety of dried fruits, which the Rat was too polite to sample, there were all sorts of new and interesting things. In fact, there were almost too many. The satchel seemed a lot bigger from the inside. The smell of magic was very present, but it wasn't a nice smell, like the Rat got from Jack. It was bad magic.
"Little Rat not belong!" a voice said.
"Little Rat come to feed us! Hee hee hee hee hee!" said another.
This was not normal satchel noise, the Rat decided.
Two small red beings with big heads and tails dislodged themselves from beneath a stack of chemically-smelling bags. The Rat was terrified, but the sigil wasn't resonating. These were evil, but not the evil he had fled. "Yummy Rat, come to Urt," said one.
"Urt, Rat starts with an R," said the other.
"Oh, Bernie, we must protect the master's secrets! We don't have time for this!"
"And time starts with a T!" Bernie continued.
The Rat figured it was time to flee. Grabbing a piece of paper written in an unpleasant looking script, he skittered towards the direction he remembered as out.
"Bernie! He's getting away! The master will kill us!"
"Kill starts with a K!"
Clambering over some nasty looking black knives, the rat saw the exit. The two devilkin were behind him, finally closing in. The Rat leapt onto a strange graven head and bounded on to the edge of the satchel.
"He's getting away!" Urt screamed.
"Hey! I've got your nose, Urt!" Bernie giggled.
"At's dot fuddy, Berdie!" Urt cried.
With that distraction, the Rat slipped out of the bag and into the Trade Carriage. Fortunately, Pieret had slipped the satchel under his seat, and the Rat could slink over to Jack without being noticed. Jack didn't even acknowledge the rat as it slipped the paper into Jack's hand.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, Valende, and Vas
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rat and Pony Show
Title of Post: Dear Goddess

"You know," Khyrisse murmured, apropos of nothing, "this must be what it's like to have worshippers that aren't feebs."
"What's it like to have worshippers that are feebs?" Skitch wanted to know.
"I don't know; I never had any worshippers," she replied absently, "just vandals. Ask Flicker." She looked at the man, who seemed much steadier now that Valende was tending to him. He looked back at her, eyes shadowed with fear and a little bit of resentment.
Magic and foreigners. Must be. Oh, SPIT, I can't just waltz off and leave kids in the hands of demons...
"Tarrin, Fred, I'm sorry, but we'll have to go rescue the kids first. We'll hurry."
"I should think so," said Vas from behind her. Valende nodded. "Where is this temple?" Khyrisse asked the Sturtevanter. He pointed down the road towards the main body of burning buildings. "At the far end of town, in a clearing on the western side of the hill."
"All right. You stay here. Pack your things, tell any others to do the same. You'll probably have to leave as soon as we return with... any children we find." Khyrisse didn't mention that they might not find any alive still. "How many were taken, do you know?"
"At--at least half a dozen. Maybe as many as ten..."
Khyrisse sighed. "Okay. Go on." The Sturtevanter hurried off, looking back several times over his shoulder. "And tell the other parents, too!" she called after him.
"Boy, that's gonna be a tight squeeze," Skitch said. "You guys think we're crowded now!" he called to the others inside the Carriage.
"Well, if anyone doesn't want to go to the temple, speak up now," Khyrisse said. "I don't like splitting up the group, but neither do I like dragging everyone off to fight demons. And as Skitch points out, it's going to be a very crowded ride back if we manage to rescue the children. Val and Vas and Skitch, at least, will be coming with me, correct?" All three nodded.
"Those who want to stay behind could help the families of the children pack, or tend to those who were wounded when the demons attacked," Valende pointed out gently.

Character(s): Ebreth, Fred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: The Vengeance Of A Horse

"Are you hinting that I'd be in the way?" said Ebreth.
"No!" Khyrisse said quickly. "I--"
"--gave me a graceful way out," he finished, his blue eyes twinkling, "but I'm too much of an idiot to take it. All right, I've been in tough spots before."
"If I heeeeeeelp you," neighed Fred. "Will you destroy the King of Kiiiiiiings?"
"Well, is he a good guy, or a bad guy?" asked Ebreth.
"A baaaaaaaaad guy. He turned me into a hoooooooorse. And he's using you."
"We'll do what we can," said Khyrisse.
"How can you help us?" said Skitch.
"I can carry children on my baaaaaaaack," he offered. Skitch looked disappointed. "I'm only a hoooooorse, Wiiiiiilbur."

Character(s): Robinson Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Demons and Devils and Valkyrie, Oh My!

"This is the place Marsok suggested," sighed Flicker as they approached the fallen temple of Tal. Norna said nothing. She had been much quieter since... whatever it was... had happened. Contemplative, even. Robinson Paris was the most talkative of the three, apparently trying to squeeze a lifetime of talking into the short amount of time he had left. Fortunately, he turned out to be a much more accessible storyteller than his mathematician background would suggest. "And after Darion had attached the rope, it was just a matter of tossing the bags off of the crows nest..."
Snap.
"Hsh!" Flicker whispered. Robinson froze. Life and anger washed over Norna's face.
"The Demontide is here," she said. "Many threads come together in this temple."
From inside the temple came a loud chanting.
"That's a sacrifice!" Flicker said. "One done by someone who knows what they're doing!" He raced towards the temple.
"Messala, you bastard! No!" Norna yelled. "We want information!"
"You'll get it, ma'am," Robinson said, racing after Flicker. Luthien and Berryn followed.
Norna scowled. They weren't here to be heroes. They were here to discover the secret of the Valkyrie disappearance. Damn mortals, anyway. At least one of them wasn't going to be around after all of this.
Inside the temple, Mick watched as the demons or devils or whatever they were danced around him. His friends were still in the flesh-cage, but the creatures had bound him to some sort of blooded stone altar. "The blood of the innocent!" one of them cried.
"The soul of the innocent!" another one yelled.
"Both torn in the name of our lord and master!" the one with the nasty knife shouted.
"Karak tashva brikilto!" Flicker shouted. "Begone from here, young ones!"
"Or don't," Luthien smiled. "Make it fun for us."
"Oh, dear, I seem to be a bit over my head here," Robinson said, bringing up the rear.

Then they saw the people entering from the other side of the temple.

Character(s): Jack Paris and the Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings For President
Title of Post: Demons and Devils and Valkyrie, Oh My! (Remix)

"Fred doesn't really strike me as a Diarian name," Ariath said to the horse, who refused to dignify the comment with a reply.
"Demon infested temple ahead in three minutes, fifteen seconds... mark," Jack said.
"Showoff," grinned Val.
Cori seemed to be very upset about something, and Jack made a mental note to talk to her privately after the demon raid. Maybe she'd feel better about whatever it was after killing some fell creatures. Jack wondered if it had to do with Pieret.
The paper that the Rat had brought him seemed to be in some form of Luciferian writing. Jack had seen such things once or twice, but never a document this long. He wished Robinson had made him a linguist. Regardless, it certainly confirmed Ariath's contention that Pieret was a priest of Lucifer. Could Pieret have something to do with the Demontide here? Jack couldn't remember if demons and devils worked together very well. Besides, it might have something to do with the comment Goat-boy had made regarding souls loose from Hell. "Is it much farther now, Father Paris?" Ebreth quipped.
"Not much farther now," Jack said, just as the fallen temple became visible on the other side of the hill. Chanting was easily heard from inside the great hall.
"This is not where the King of Kiiiiiings is, Wilbur," Fred said to Skitch.
"It's a detour," Skitch said. "We'll get to it."
Something was bothering Jack. Something from within the temple was resonating strangely. It was like a strange bending of space. Fortunately, it didn't seem to be affecting the Carriage, as Jack himself had done previously.
"They're sacrificing in there!" Khyrisse shouted, pulling the carriage to a halt and leaping off.
"Not if we can help it," Val said, gritting her teeth and following Khyrisse.
The Rat Pack raced towards the open front of the temple. Indeed, demons of all sizes and descriptions were dancing around inside the temple in an obscene orgy of desecration.

Then they saw the people entering from the other side of the temple.

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