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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Lost Souls, Part III

Character(s): Khyrisse, chew toy of Fate
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (but it's Jeffy's fault)
Storyline: The Rats Deserting a Sinking Ship
Title of Post: Last of the Chaos (One Hopes)

Khyrisse stared in blank horror at Pieret's body for a moment, blood and ichor splashed up to her elbows, sword clutched tightly in one hand. Then she was buffeted aside by one of the milling combatants. She fell into a suddenly clear and quiet patch near the door. There was a sharp smell of decay, and a quiet popping sound, as every one of her magics was dispelled. She looked up, gasping and furious, to see the Collector's dripping visage grinning smugly at her as it approached. Several of the combatants froze in place as it moved through the dwindling crowd. Her blood started singing in her ears, pulse goaded by rage.
"That just fucking does it," Khyrisse ground out through clenched teeth, getting back up. Her muscles began stiffening in a familiar sort of fear, and she spat out an emotion spell. Half the creatures that remained in the room went berserk. A nearly demonic grin split her face as the fear was reduced to a tight knot in her stomach. One dainty hand moved in a twisting arc, and a thri-kreen suddenly stood in the tiny elven woman's place, violet-and-gold multi-faceted eyes glaring venomously at the undead creature.
The Collector paused in surprise, maggots dropping to sizzle into the marble floor, and stared at the five-foot-tall mantis for a moment. Khyrisse spat something rude at it in a snarling, bubbling, hiss of a language. The Collector moved swiftly towards Khyrisse, gesturing, as she leaped away from it, also gesturing. Spells flew through the air. Several magics popped out of existence at her hands, dispelled as she cast them.
Khyrisse turned out to be faster. One of her three empty hands was already casting the next spell as another hand lost one. She got her haste spell off, and the thri-kreen body began to move so fast it blurred at the edges. Khyrisse backed into a knot of tangled combatants and could go no further. One razor-edged arm whipped around and seized the nearest demon. Wrenching it in front of her, she flung it directly into the Collector's path.
The Collector tore its throat out in a spray of acid and shoved the stiffening body aside. It was starting to look angry. Khyrisse got another spell off and turned alabaster white. The thri-kreen's form disappeared in a spray of sand-colored sparks, leaving Khyrisse in her normal body. She shouted and pointed at the Collector. Nothing happened. She tried a different phrase. This time it hissed in agony and dissolved into drifting smoke. A few moments later, it reformed, not five feet from her now. Another spray of sparks, multicolored ones, danced around her, and her body slowed, muscles stiffening in renewed fear as the Collector raised its hand. Its rotting gums bared in a bubbling smile of triumph. Khyrisse's left arm lifted, wrenched upward as the sword fell from her nerveless right hand. Burgundy-gloved hand met the dessicated claw descending.
There was an explosion of light and air that blasted all of the noise from the temple for a moment. Two sounds drifted into the glaring white silence. One was the wet, nauseating sound of tearing flesh.
The other was the sound of Khyrisse's voice, penetrating and impossibly vibrant, but choked nearly to a whisper as she spoke the last words of her hold-out spell. "I confine thee-- Laran Raimonde, former Emperor of Dalencia."
Simultaneous shrieks of agony echoed through the room as the light vanished. Khyrisse flew backwards into the wall, burgundy glove in tatters around her wrist, hand bent back at an impossible angle. Blood flew in a dwindling spray as she slid down to the floor.
The Collector had problems of its own, though. Crackling black shards stabbed upwards into its body and began to drag it down into the earth. Writhing in pain, seemingly unable to escape, the undead creature finally dissolved into a wailing cloud of nauseating mist and a pool of maggoty acid. The bands of imprisonment groped at the liquid, and sucked some of it into the earth with them, vanishing from sight.
The mist then gathered up the remaining acid and flew out of the temple, right through Ariath.
A venomous whisper bubbled in her ear. It sounded badly hurt, somehow. "I will return, fools."
The sigil on the palm of Khyrisse's hand finished healing itself with a flash of twisting blue light-- and its outline remained, an alabaster tracery of intertwined lines. A tiny gleam of vibrant gold raced across the surface of her wedding ring and vanished.
"Well that didn't work very well..." whispered Khyrisse dizzily, lying very still.

Character(s): Skitch, Valende and Vas
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats on a Sinking Ship
Title of Post: Mission Accomplished... Sort Of

Valende blinked wildly after the flash and said a word that Jack would have been astonished to learn she knew. "What on Ataniel...?" she murmured, glancing quickly back towards the doorway.
Someone yanked suddenly on her tunic and she spun around to find a bunch of children, wailing in terror, clustered around... an empty point of air. "It's me!" Skitch said shakily from the center. "That creepy guy hacked his way over to Flicker, and we got out. What do we do now?"
Valende looked around the room from the momentary safety of Skitch's traveling protection from evil zone. She couldn't see anyone from the Rat Pac-- Oh, no. "Vas!" she shrieked.
Vas dropped down beside her, gasping for breath. He looked battered, but whole. "The flying ones are all dead, but I'm out of arro--"
"Get Skitch out of here!" she said, and rushed over to Jack. She dropped down beside the crumpled body of Robinson Paris, placing her hands over his heart.

"Have you seen Khyrisse?" Skitch asked Vas urgently. "I have to tell her something!"
Vas' face took on a strange expression. "I saw... something, all right... I think she's over here somewhere." Vas, Skitch, and eight or nine weeping children headed off across the floor in search of Khyrisse. "Stop pushing me, guys... Hey! That's gonna stain, you know!"

Character(s): Flicker, Norna, Ebreth, Fred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Most all, for the moment
Title of Post: Denouement

The members of Bloodscar followed their namesake out of the temple at speed. Ariath did not follow. Khyrisse looked relieved to see her staying; Flicker, who remembered that she had stayed behind with them last time too, was less moved. "Where is Darkcloak?" rumbled the Beast.
"I don't know," he said, getting his breath back. "Silent-Voice, where is Malcar?"
Khyrisse took in air, noticing for the first time the absence of "Grimthane Darkcloak's" leathery black cloak. "I am sworn not to say," said Silent-Voice, heavily.
"Fuck," muttered Norna, pushing her jaw back into alignment. "Ragnarokkr, I'm going to kill you." Val pushed by her and fumbled with Robinson. "Don't bother, sweetheart."
Flicker pointed. "Is that the host?"
"What?" gasped Norna, and turned, her wobbling eyes clutching at the horizon, trying to make sense of it. It wasn't very nice, but Flicker wasn't about to give the brutal Valkyrie the chance to break any more news. He took Jack by the arm. "Jack," he said, low, "I'm so sorry. Robinson--he left an important message for you. He wants you to stay on this plane. If you leave you might--degrade, or something. He said the math was too complicated to get into." Flicker hesitated, his throat bruised, face burned, soaked with holy water, and then he said what had been underlying all of it, even the stories. "And he loves you."
Ebreth walked back into the temple with his hands in his pockets, looking very embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he said, not meeting Khyrisse's eyes. "I was just a little--overwhelmed. I told you I wasn't a fighter."
"Khyrisse," said Skitch, tugging at her. "Pieret tricked Cori into going through the portal and setting that thing. He did it on purpose!"
"No," said Norna, "no, it's just--a cloud." She turned back, dizzily. "Where is Kalxanti?"
"Wiiiiiiiilbur," neighed Fred, sticking his head through the window. "We must go to the riiiiiiiiiift."
"The rift," said Norna. "Then I will accompany you there."
"The King of Kings must diiiiiiiiiiiie."
"So must we all," said Norna.

Character(s): The Children
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings, Dead Villains, and Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Spoils of War

"Wow! They kicked those demons in the ASS!"
"I want my mommy!"
"Was the guy with no head a good guy or a bad guy?"
"When I grow up, I want to be a witch."
"Aaaaaaah! Aaaaaaah!"
"That was the most confusing thing I've ever--"
"Hey! You've got twelve fingers!"
"My butt hurts!"
"I want to go ho-o-o-o-me!"
Eight children descended on the still somewhat dazed Khyrisse, clutching at her and clamoring for her attention. Mick just let Tarrin carry him. He was weird-looking, but he was better than the demons.

Character(s): First Intendant Lilith, Pieret
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Extradition

Lilith smiled a frighteningly genuine smile at the dead spirit of Pieret. "Kardia Blackfeather," she said. "Welcome home."
As her snake-like fingers closed about his throat, Pieret had the sudden, incongruous wish that he was in Cynystra.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, new at these things
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Wrap-up

Tarrin concentrated, his hand on Khyrisse, and the pain subsided. "So Pieret betrayed Cori," Ebreth summarized, "we killed a bunch of demons and let a bunch of guys out of Hell, we saved some little kids, and we found your other friends. Is that good? Is that how these things usually go?"
"Oh, Jack," said Val, her large eyes brimming, and enfolded him in her arms.
"It's OK, I guess," said Khyrisse, wearily. "I also wounded Laran."
"You did? That's great!" Ebreth shook his head. "I'm sorry I was so useless. I don't know what came over me."
"You couldn't help it," she said. "He radiates an aura of fear."
He didn't correct her. "I'll make it up to you."
"Excuse me, please," Tarrin piped up. "We must rest before we can go to the rift. I am crapped. No, pooped. I must meditate to regain the psionic energy before I can heal this wound in the world."
"I think he had a heart attack," said Val, tearfully. "He's not wounded or anything."
"Wow!" said Ariath, blinking ingenuously. "Who were all those people?"

Character(s): Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Somebody Else's Work

The Beast held Hronmir in his gaze, but didn't move any closer. "You have the stench of Darkcloak upon you, human."
Norna stepped forward. "I care not. This man is mine."
"Where is Darkcloak?" the Beast repeated.
Hronmir was silent. Norna made no efforts to spur him to speak.
"You are wounded, creature," the Valkyrie said. "And I do not think that you could take me as easily as you did that mortal... leave this place and trouble us no more!"
The Beast looked her over and decided that perhaps the time was not right. "Very well," the Beast said. "But I will return for the secret of Darkcloak."
"Look," Flicker sighed. "We all oppose Malcar. Why can't we all just get along?"
Norna glared at him.
When she turned back, the Beast was gone. "You brought this upon us, Aesir," Norna glared. "Do not think I am pleased."

"But you owe me, Darkcloak!" Ariath said.
"Would that I could repay that debt, but I am Aesir, and bound to the Valkyrie."
"That bitch? Maybe we ought to..."
"No," Hronmir said, almost a whisper. "Do nothing. I will return to honor my commitment to you when my service here is done."
"You're not going to tell anyone our... secret, are you?"
"No," Hronmir breathed.
Ariath stood on her toes and kissed him. Hronmir was shocked, but betrayed no reaction. "Take care, Darkcloak."
"Hronmir. Hronmir Silent-Voice."
"Even better."

Character(s): Jack Paris, Janus
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings By The Deed
Title of Post: Requiem

Jack had tears in his eyes. He hadn't cried since Lita.
"It's okay," he told Val. "I'll be okay..."
Norna was standing there. "I told him it was his time. He shouldn't have tried to stop it."
Jack glared at the Valkyrie, and with a scream of anger, lunged at her.
Norna looked shocked, but batted him away with one hand. "Tell your boyfriend not to try that again," she said to Val. "Ever again."
"Ow," Jack moaned.

Janus surveyed the scene. The portal was closed and the bad guys were either dead or gone. He walked over to Khyrisse. "My job here is done. I will see you again at the Rift."
"How did you know we were going..." Khyrisse started, but he was already falling into the earth, which closed up over him as if it hadn't been disturbed at all.
"I hate guys like that," Khyrisse mumbled.

All Jack had was a small spade, but he had already begun digging the grave. "Is everyone else all right?" he asked Val, holding in his own pain.
"Pieret and Berryn also died in the battle," Val said sadly, worried about Jack. "And Cori was lost in the portal."
"She's still in Hell?" Jack demanded. "We've got to go get her!"
"We will... I promise," Val said. "But we've got to see this business to the end, first."
Jack wanted to ask why that was, but he realized that it would only be his pain talking. He threw himself back into the job of digging his father's grave.

Character(s): Berryn
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Culture Clash

"Whoa," said Berryn. "This--isn't what I'd expected from an afterlife, to be honest with you. Even after what happened to Arawn and all that."
Luthien was livid. "You--Valkyrie--bitch!"
"It is our highest honor," snapped Norna.
Luthien looked angrily at Flicker. "Um," he said, "it is, actually."
"Being turned into the undead servant of an insane Valkyrie is your highest honor??"
"Well," said Flicker, "it, it's that kind of a country, Luthien."

Character(s): Cori Yashida
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell in a Handbasket
Title of Post: Cori In Hell

Cori laid low as the demonstorm passed by. Occidental demons, by the look of them. Man, was she going to kill Pieret when she got out of here. She sheathed Oshi's blade, as the thing would shine like a beacon here. She was probably a faster draw than most demons anyway. Jack would save her. She was certain of that. When he realized what he had been looking for had been here all along. Like she had done with Jack.
Cori took some of the soot from a nearby flamepit and smeared it over her face. Best to look like a demon while in Hell.
"Trapped in here?" a voice from behind Cori asked.
Cori whirled, her hand on Oshi's sword. "Don't mess with me, demon," Cori snarled. "I've killed more of your kind than you've ever met."
The demon was a tall woman dressed in a black leather outfit, with a gleaming copper brassiere and a nasty looking whip at her side. "You'd be surprised at who I've met," the demoness said. "But I've met very few mortals here. Have you come to free us from Ansakir?"
"I was tricked here. I'm just trying to get out." Cori was surprised by the demoness' behavior. Usually they tried to kill or eat her. Few bothered to chit-chat.
"I may know a way," the demoness said. "But it is held by Ansakir, the evil lord who has conquered my homeland."
"We've all got our problems," Cori grumbled.
"Perhaps if you help me, I can help you... if Ansakir is deposed, I would be willing to transport you home."
Never trust a demon, Cori remembered. But maybe going into this with her eyes open, Cori could still get what she needed. It was better than sitting in a pool of oil until Jack got here. "Lead on, lady."
"Ailonwy," the demoness said. "My name is Ailonwy."
"Cori. Cori Yashida. Demon Slayer."
Ailonwy smiled. She had gotten the mortal before Lilith even noticed there was one in Hell. As the two took off down a black road, Cori didn't even notice the shift from Hell to the Abyss.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Do It With Their Tails
Title of Post: Luthien Does What He Does Best

Jack piled the twenty-four stones over the grave in a perfect Pagent Symmetry. It was the best he could do under the constraints of place and time. He sat, staring at the grave.
"Jack?" Val whispered. "Are you doing okay?"
"Okay," Jack agreed. "Just, uh, taking care of business, I guess."
Val could see that Jack was in pain. She took off.
"Aw, Robinson," Jack said to the grave. "I never got to tell you those tales... we never sat on the porch... I had so much to tell you."
"Tell him," said Luthien. "He'll hear you."
Valende had brought her boss. "He's not a priest, but he knows more about death than any three of us put together."
"I can't burden him... he lost his apprentice... he shouldn't worry about me."
"No burden," Luthien said. "Pain kept is doubled, pain shared is halved."
"Can you... consecrate?"
"If it's a funeral you want, it's a funeral you'll get," Luthien said. And he began to speak.
And Jack began to heal.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Flashback: Small Gifts

Flicker watched Jack burying his creator and mentor. He was inexorably remembering Alain's funeral. There was nothing he could do or say, of course. He barely knew Jack, and even to explain how he had known Robinson was too much of a mess to wish on the kid right now. Flicker had delivered
Robinson's message; that was the best he could do.
That, and one other thing.
"Norna," he said, low, in Riklandic. "Which of these demons opened that portal? This is very important."
"What?" she snapped. "How should I know? You're the demon expert, Messala."
"I was otherwise occupied at the time," he reminded her.
Norna sighed in irritation. "There are dozens of--hold on." Norna began to trace the skeins of the dead demons.
That ought to keep her occupied long enough for Jack to bury his father undisturbed.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jack Paris, Private Eye
Title of Post: So, uh, do you like San Francisco?

"Today you were the heroic one," said Ebreth. He put his hand around her wrist from behind. They looked like a marble chess set. "Maybe it's my turn to reward you."
Khyrisse was still too shaken up to hide the tension of her reaction to that. "Mabye, uh, another time," she managed.
Ebreth released her and backed off a couple of steps, raising his hands reassuringly. "Hey, what's the worst I could do to you?" he said, grinning at his own expense. Jack, he noticed, was looking at him with muted violence. Jack seemed to suffer from mood swings. "You're even a higher-level merchant than I am."
Khyrisse flushed a little through her stoneskin. "That's not what I meant."
"No?" Ebreth caught Khyrisse's hand gently in both of his. "You're trembling. Do you like me or are you scared of me?"
"Neither!" she said. "Both. I don't know."
"Do this in private, you horndog mortals," snapped Norna.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Storyline? We don't need no stinkin' storyline!
Title of Post: Had It With the Valkyrie

Khyrisse looked at Norna with a cold, trembling sort of rage. "You know, nobody asked you. I'm in as much privacy as I ever get, so either fake some courtesy or get out, Norna. You can boss your Aesir, but don't even fucking try it with me."

Character(s): Khyrisse, the Rat Pack, and the... Brat Pack?
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: Goddess! He's Touching Me!!

Khyrisse took a deep breath and tried to get some of the gunk off her arms. "Flicker, I'm glad to see you're okay. Sorry I had to leave the Dagger, Luthien, but life's been hectic lately."
"Something came up in Lianth, anyway," Luthien said, glaring at the back of Norna's head. She should have had spears sticking out of the back of her skull.
"I have to take the Rat Pack to the rift. I'll get in touch with you by sending; I need some advice about an undead creature we've run into."
"An undead creature? What kind?"
Khyrisse was being shoved towards her Carriage by a crowd of yelling children. "I can't talk now! Kick the crap out of Norna for me sometime, will you?"
"My pleasure," said Luthien.
"Don't bet on it, necromancer," Norna said, without looking up from her skeins.

Jack was very quiet on the way back. So was Valende.
Cori was in Hell. Pieret was dead and deserved it.
That's the second time I've seen him drop dead in front of me. I think some of this blood is his. I'm going to be really really sick when I have the time and privacy to do so...
Hronmir had been carrying Malcar, but wasn't anymore and had stayed behind with Norna.
Vas kept looking at her funny. Ariath was chattering at Vas in a cheerful but brittle sort of way, but she couldn't hear a word she was saying because of the kids.
"Is this your coach?"
"Can I drive?"
"Are you really a witch?"
"She killed that undead thing! I saw!"
"You know, you can go to Hell for that."
"Where's my mother? I want my mother!"
"I'm hungry!"
"How do you cast spells?"
"I have to go to the bathroooom!"
"Wow, look at that mess! Did you guys do that?"
"Stop shoving!"
Khyrisse started shaking with laughter. It was a little hysterical, and a few tears were dancing in her eyes, but she seemed okay after a minute. "All right! Calm down, we're going to find your parents. I have to drive. Um... why don't you guys sing something? What does everybody know?"

Luthien stared after the Carriage in bemusement as it drove away, kids hopping up and down all over the roof.
"Flicker... I don't know if Janther ever noticed, but Khyrisse was never what I'd call the maternal type, back in the Sewer Tour..."
"Gdeon," Flicker said.
"Ah, yes. You're right." He tilted his head at the cacophony of a hymn to Tal now issuing from the Carriage roof, as it disappeared around the edge of the hill. "Remind me to tell Rhynwa about this. She'll find it... amusing."

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