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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Lost Souls, Part II

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

Khyrisse grabbed Skitch and yanked him out of sight at the edge of the doorway. She cast protection from evil 10' radius, stoneskin, and improved invisibility over him as fast as she could. "Find the kids, pick the lock, bring them back here! Keep them all within ten feet of you, and don't attack anything or the protection will stop working!"
"Right!" came Skitch's voice; he was already scampering through the door, by the sound of it.
Khyrisse leaned over and up, and touched Ebreth lightly on his cheekbone. Ebreth's skin took on a sort of reflective gleam, and darkened to a pure jet black.
"Only spells can hurt you now, until that wears down," she explained quickly to Ebreth as he looked at her in surprise. "Not even claws or teeth or magical weapons can get through that." With a hurried but playful tap, she touched his other cheekbone. "And now you can't be touched by evil extraplanar creatures, unless you attack them first. If you insist on getting in trouble, you might as well be prepared," she said, grinning.


Character(s): Norna, Flicker, Robinson, the Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate/Rat Kings
Title of Post: Norna Is Right

Norna whipped out her two-handed sword with a metallic streak of light and cleaved the nearest demon in half with it. Doing this pissed Norna the hell off but at least it gave her the opportunity to kick some serious ass, something she'd been wanting to do for a long time. Demons also, noted Norna, made very satisfying booms when you cut them in half. This was a waste of time and effort, but it took exactly two demons for Norna to forget that.

***
Flicker leapt up onto the altar and caught the forearm of the wolf-headed demon on the Kjallensword as she tried to bring the flanged knife down on the boy. "Who the fuck are you?" she snarled at him.
"Get out," said Flicker, and slashed diagonally across her body.

***
Robinson could sense Jack's presence. Of all the mathematical constants of the sphere, this most complex of them was also by far the most familiar. Jack was here somewhere. Robinson turned towards the second entrance just as one of the demons released a fireball at Norna. It exploded in great brilliance. Robinson threw his arm up. He could see the mad Valkyrie, cutting a swath through the heat and the demons alike. He could see Luthien, who had also been caught in the fireball pushing forward grimly. Then he saw the burning crossbeam crashing down on him from above, and after that Robinson Paris didn't see anything at all.

***
Some smaller demons were crashing through the stained glass windows and fleeing. The Rat Pack pushed into the temple as a fireball went off on its other side. Backlit in its orange glow, Flicker and a demon with a wolf's head were fighting on a low altar. "Hey, there's your friend!" said Ebreth. "Maybe you can ask him about the horse." A thing with bat wings whizzed by, shrieking, and bowled Khyrisse over onto the ground. "Well, maybe after the combat."

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Don't Care
Title of Post: Jack Causes a Distraction

While Khyrisse made sure that Skitch and Ebreth wore their galoshes, Jack had wandered innocuously around the temple. Pure form demons tended not to notice Jack. Robinson told him that was because they were notoriously bad at math and avoided it if at all possible. Jack wasn't sure whether he was joking or not.
The temple was apparently created in a open air design, much like the pillar-temple to Morvon in Trade. There were entrances at each of the four ends. Apparently, someone else had just entered the temple from the end opposite of the Rat Pack. Jack wandered into the side entrance. Jack recognized Flicker as the man standing at the altar, fighting with a wolf-headed demon.
"Hey! Flicker! Over here! It's me! Jack!" he shouted over the fray, jumping and waving.
That certainly got people's attention. Flicker looked confused for a moment, the demons all turned and looked at Jack with loathing, the kid on the altar tried to look, and a familiar friend stepped out from behind his hiding place.
"Jack!" Robinson Paris shouted.
"Robinson!" Jack grinned.
Then the demons rushed them.
"Get behind that wall, Robinson!" Luthien shouted, watching Berryn move forward into combat.
The Rat Pack had made it to the entrance, but Jack couldn't tell what they were doing from this angle. Something to do with a fireball. Besides, demons were rushing him. "Maybe this distraction wasn't such a good idea," he said, turning and running out the temple entrance, a horde of demons on his tail.
The head demon refused to be deterred. He ignored Flicker's blade, and swung his blade at the chest of the boy. Flicker tried to block, but the wolf-headed demon simply impaled himself on Flicker's sword to be able to reach the boy. Gouts of hellfire sprung forth. "The Gateway will open!" the demon shouted, blood running down his chin. "Soon there will be more free than our paltry Twelve!"
Robinson watched Norna stride purposefully away from her fray, directly towards him. "Robinson Paris," she said calmly, "I thank you for your service, and choose you for a vassal of the Valkyrie in your afterlife."
"What?" Robinson cried. "This can't be my time..."
The burning crossbeam above Robinson snapped, and plummeted towards the mathematician. Norna watched dispassionately and did not move.
"Nobody dies today, Norn," came an eerie hollow voice. Floating in the air above the battle, a man in a flowing robe with a blank marble-like face had appeared, standing on what appeared to be a circle of stone. He gestured, and a giant pressurized stream of water shot from his hand at the crossbeam, knocking it just far enough to avoid crushing Robinson, who had fainted from fright. "Not if Janus of the Five Elements has anything to say about it."
"What? How...?" Norna was speechless. It had been this man's time to die, yet somehow the death had been averted.
"I see you're still a cold bitch, Norn," Janus said as a snowfall appeared out of nowhere to crash on her head.
Outside, Jack kept running as the chaos inside grew. The weird buzzing in the back of his head was getting louder. Someone was messing with planar space. Jack felt a bit queasy.
Then he ran into the Beast.
It was ten feet tall, and black and fell and dark and just awfully terrifying. If Jack hadn't been fleeing demons, he would have turned and ran back into the temple.
"Grimthane... Darkcloak..." it said. "I have followed the scent of his demon ally here."
"Uh, in there," Jack said, gesturing to the temple.
"Thanks," the Beast said.
"This is getting way too confusing," Jack mumbled as he tooled off, demons on his heels.

Character(s): Flicker, Tarrin
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Sure you need a +2 or better weapon to hit them, but...
Title of Post: The Downside Of A Demon Lord's Body

"Who laid THAT fart!" cried Tarrin, with his usual charming inappropriateness, and touched the wounded Mick with both healing hands as the two demon lords wrestled over the altar. Flicker launched into the wolf-headed demon with his shoulder, knocking both of them off the altar and into the holy font of Tal, Flicker's sword still through her chest. There was a terrible hissing and churning. Flicker struggled up, holding the sword down with all his strength. The impaled demon thrashed. The water ran dark and foaming. She made an agonized scream, and then there was a burbling boom and a burst of light and the water shot up in a column and fell back, like rain. Flicker stood dizzily in the font, his face burned, his hair wet, baptized in the clearing water.

Character(s): Luthien (and Skitch)
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Vengeance in Black

Luthien was getting pretty sick of this shit. He had barely gotten off a few defensive spells so far, and as far as he knew, none of his offensive magics were reliably effective. His stoneskin was almost down to nothing, and the only thing that had saved him from the demons' explosions as they died was his fire shield. All in all, this combat sucked.
After a few moments, he got a moment's rest. He turned to check behind him, just in time to see Berryn impaled by a demon's horns. Dammit. He had such promise. The sight of his only apprentice's body crumpling to the ground gave him a new fire, and he turned to look for a demon to slaughter.
As he turned, he noticed the door to the cage with the captives being opened by an invisible...child? Must be Skitch, he thought. Good thing my true sight is running, or I never would have spotted him. Luthien spotted something else, too. Several demons had noticed the cage door open, and
they moved forward to stop their prisoners from escaping.
Oh, no you don't. Not after Berryn.
With that thought in mind, Luthien cast Tenser's transformation, leapt forward, and let the rush of battle overwhelm him. The last conscious thought he had was to kick the door to the cage closed again, so that he wouldn't hit Skitch or any of the children as he worked.

***
Skitch yelped in surprise as the cage door hit him in the butt. "Hey, watch the clothes!" he yelled in reflex, rolling over to see what had kicked it. His mouth dropped as he saw the meanest-looking guy he'd ever seen beating the living crap out of several demons. Not only was he nasty-looking, but he was on fire, too! Skitch had never seen anyone be so vicious, and he was really glad he was on the inside of the cage. He was even gladder when he realized that the cage seemed to be warded against fire; even when the demons exploded, he didn't feel a thing.

Character(s): Pretty Much Everyone
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Skeining Fate
Title of Post: And Then There Were...

Pieret watched the Gateway open and smiled. He didn't know who these particular demons were, but he did know what they were doing. Cori was hacking through demons like there was no tomorrow. To her, the face of Chu-I Po was on each one. "Cori!" Pieret yelled. "They've opened a portal!"
"The Hell they have," Cori sneered.
Pieret paused, as if considering the outcomes of various actions. Finally, he reached into his satchel and pulled out a red jewel. "Can you take this through the portal?"
"What?" Cori demanded. "I'm not going in there!"
"If you take this jewel into the portal, it'll seal it off."
"With me inside?"
"Not if you're as fast as you look."
"Fine," Cori said, grabbing the jewel. The samurai raced at the Gateway, cleaving demons down as she went. Behind them, Skitch was the only person to hear the conversation.

"Pardon me?" a huge black Beast asked Flicker. "Do you know Grimthane Darkcloak?"
Flicker blinked at the thing. It certainly wasn't a demon.
"You might have run into him down by Rumi," the Beast said.
"Yes, I--"
"Good," the Beast said, and grabbed Flicker's head in one huge paw and squeezed.
Janus had turned his attention away from the snowbound Valkyrie and was sucking demons into a dark void within his cloak. One of them moved quickly enough to throw a knife at the Master of Five Elements. The blade split the robe and flew out the back with no resistance. Meanwhile, Valende had been pushed up between three dark cat-demons. She kicked one in the head, sending it rolling. "Allow me, beautiful," Janus said, floating overhead. From the ground in front of Valende, a stream of lava erupted.
"I had them, thanks," Val said.
The lava hardened under a gust of air, and the demons within wriggled helplessly. The chasm was gone as if it were never there. "I'm just watching out for you. Sheesh, some people," Janus grumbled in his eerie hollow voice.

Jack was surrounded. He stood and watched the demons circle around him. Fortunately, Jack noticed, demons have a bad idea of what a circle is. As soon as one lunged, Jack jumped to the first point of his evasion path. The demon turned, and the one closest to where Jack landed also lunged. Jack hopped over him to point three. Two more demons moved, and the first one swerved to avoid them. Point four. Point five. Two demons collided. Point six. Another demon tripped over the two already on the ground. Jack leapt to point seven. One of the demons turned to avoid the pile-up and impaled himself on the tusk of his comrade who had just joined the attack. Point eight, point nine. By the time Jack landed on the stone that was point ten, all twelve demons lay moaning, piled over one another. There was another burst of flame from the temple. "Oh, crap!" Jack cried, suddenly remembering. "Val!"

"Hey, dig her out of there," Ariath said. "She'll be of help against the demons."
Hronmir looked at the snowdrift, and knew that he was in big, big trouble. "As you command," he whispered, and started digging.

Cori made it to the Gateway. Looking around to make sure none of the demons were paying her too much attention, she gripped Pieret's gem tightly and leapt into the portal.
There was a brilliant flash of light from the portal, which failed to close.
"An infernal beacon?" Flicker asked no one in particular. "Who the hell... every soul in Hell's going to be moving to that portal now!"
As the light cleared, Cori was nowhere to be seen. A huge figure was stepping through the portal. Flicker's heart fell as he saw who it was. "Now serving number thirteen," the One True Bloodscar said, grinning that malicious child-eating grin of his as he stepped out of Hell.
Pieret's face betrayed no emotion.

Character(s): Norna of the Skeins
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Norna Tries Again

Norna pushed past the incongruous snow, pushed past Hronmir, back where he belonged, and past Ariath, that bitch. Norna lifted the fallen priest in her arms. "You have served bravely, young Berryn," she said calmly, though somewhat more hesitantly than before. "And I choose you for a vassal of the Valkyrie."

Character(s): First Intendant Lilith
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Time To Take Over The Top Bitch Position

First Intendant Lilith stood up slowly. "That does it," she said, low, and very dangerous. "Mephisto, you have the bridge. I'm going after Kardia Blackfeather."

Character(s): Janus
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Rat Kings Rah Rah Rah
Title of Post: A Little Advice

Janus floated down next to Khyrisse. "I should warn you," his hollow voice warbled, "that Cori Yashida is on the other side of that portal to Hell. Oh, and watch Luthien, he's going to go ballistic on Norn as soon as he sees what she's doing with Berryn." Before Khyrisse could even sputter out a "What the--?", Janus had picked up one of the demonblades, and was slashing into the creatures. Khyrisse wasn't sure which unnerved her more... that he seemed to know so much about them... or that he fought a lot like Knighthawke.


Character(s): Lance Graves
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Holiday In Hell

Lance Graves slowly came to awareness in a boiling pool of oil. It hurt like... well, it hurt a lot.
"Hey there, pal," came a human voice from the other side of the oil pit. Welcome to Hell."
"Hell? I'm... dead?"
"Tagged and toasted, pal," the man said. Graves' poolmate seemed to be a thin, unpleasant looking man with a mask-shape burned into his face. "The name's Celimnice. I was a priest, if you can believe it. For all the good it did me in this afterlife."
Graves noticed a lot of other souls now, climbing out of their pools and moving off towards some scary looking mountains. "Where... where are they all going?"
"Someone set off a beacon... there's a portal to Ataniel somewhere out there. Everyone's rushing to get through before Lilith gets there and shuts it down."
"You're not going?" Graves asked.
"What? And get killed by a thief and a jester again? No thanks. You get used to the heat," Celimnice sighed.
What a stooge, Graves thought.
A flaming star flew by overhead. "There goes Lilith," Celimnice said. "See, the fun's over already."
"Shut up, mortal," shouted a large, horse-like demon guard who had approached the pool. "Or I'll put the piranha back in."
"Yes sir," Celimnice said. "Shutting."
Lance Graves realized that eternity in a pool with this guy really was hell...

Character(s): Flicker, more villains than you can shake a stick at
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Dead Villains
Title of Post: BFYR

Bloodscar brought his big-ass sword around and it made an indescribable metallic crash as Norna raised hers to meet it. The two mighty swords pounded out a bizarre rhythm, battering against each other with force the arms of mortal warriors could not have withstood. The sound was a deafening crescendo. The Beast was cutting off Flicker's oxygen, but he did still notice Marhault walk through the portal. "Ari!" he said. "Whoa, what are you doing here?"
Threnody, thought Flicker, his vision swimming, would really have been amused by this.

Character(s): Ariath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Are From Ataniel, Diarians Are From Saturn
Title of Post: Yes, I Know What It Stands For, Laura

"Hey! Wow, looking good, tall guy," Ariath smiled at Marhault.
"Is that Kardia?" the tall, gaunt guy said.
"Yup."
"He really did it, then. I'm impressed. I always thought he was a real kiss ass."
"So did Omeria," Ariath grinned. "Is 'Spur coming?"
"We were just waiting for the beacon."
"Well, good luck... I'm a good mage now, so I can't join you guys."
"Right," Marhault grinned. "Sure you are."


Character(s): Ebreth Tor, coward
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Voices From The Past

"Cori's on the other side!" cried Khyrisse.
Omeria hurried through the portal. "Ari!" she said. "You bitch!"
"Who are you calling a bitch, you bitch?"
"It's good to see you!"
"We've got to get her back!" Khyrisse shouted. "She'll be trapped in Hell! Pieret, do something!"

No! he shouted. You'll be trapped here!
Better me than both of us, damn it, move!
I am not just going to leave you here, Grayson!

Ebreth Tor fled through the arch of the temple, his hands pressed violently over both ears.

Character(s): Who Can Tell In This Combat?
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings For The Soul
Title of Post: Pieret Does Something

Jack raced back into the fray. The weird portal was making him feel really wonky. As soon as he rescued Val, he'd find Robinson. The old mathematician would be able to help him.
"Pieret, do something!" Khyrisse yelled.
Pieret counted the members of Bloodscar. They were all here. Well, all except Trill, that bitch. He reached into his satchel where he amazingly quickly found what he was looking for. It was a discarded Diarian spell sphere. "These are crap for storage, but they make a nice big boom," Pieret said, and he lobbed one at the portal.
Jack pushed his way over to Val. She had just dispatched another pit fiend and was wiping down her weapon. "Val!" Jack yelled.
"What is it?" she asked pleasantly.
"Um..." Jack started, looking around at the discorporating demons on the ground around Valende. "Nothing. I'm going to go look for Robinson."

Spell storage, the Beast noted. Just the kind that Grimthane Darkcloak was using in his last incarnation. The Beast dropped Flicker and strode over to Pieret.

The Diarian spell sphere struck at the base of the Gateway. There was a tremendous explosion as the portal flickered... and dissipated.

"You idiot!" Khyrisse yelled. "Cori was still in there!"

The One True Bloodscar feinted and jabbed his hand up under Norna's jaw, breaking it. "Next time," he said, "I kill you, little godling."
"Come on, Bloodscar," Omeria said. "We're free, that's all we need."
Waves of magic covered Bloodscar's escape.

"Robinson? Robinson?" Jack asked. Robinson, still damp from Janus' rescue, didn't respond. Jack felt for a pulse. There was none. Jack began to pound on the old mathematician's chest. "Come on, damn it, Robinson... don't die on me... oh, please, Robinson... please wake up..."
Robinson didn't move.
Jack could hear the battle's wrap-up in the background, but all he could see was the man he considered his father. Dead.

"Look," Pieret explained. "It was either close the portal or deal with a second extraplanar incursion in Sturtevant! We'll go back for her later."
Khyrisse glared at Pieret.
That was when the Beast came up behind the man of many identities and bit his head off.

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