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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Cat and Mouse, Part III

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Rats, Rumi, and Recollections
Title of Post:: But Do You Play Backgammon?

Skitch scrambled to his feet and bounded over to Khyrisse. He stood behind her and a little to the side, glaring jealously and suspiciously at Vastarin. Khyrisse looked over at Flicker and the rest, her hand still in the grasp of the flirtatious young man. "I don't mind using the Carriage for this." She arched a rueful golden-brown eyebrow at Vastarin, greeting him in Elven. "Yes, I'm Khyrisse," she said. "I'm very glad you arrived, we were just about to leave." For a brief instant, her eyes took on a strange expression as she looked at him. There was an unfocused emptiness behind her widening pupils, that disappeared when she blinked. "I remember you and your lovely sister, of course," she added in Dalen, pulling her hand from his with a blushing and amused grin. "The Chain Gang passed through Trade frequently." As an afterthought, Khyrisse reached out and took one of the two cards Jack held in his hand. She read it, then looked down at it with a pensive smile. "Well, it wouldn't be the first time..."

Character(s):: Val, Vas, and the Purring Menace
Author:: Evan Haag
Storyline:: Rumi-nating about Khyrisse
Title of Post:: Two Elves and a Cat

After Khyrisse responded, Vastarin smiled again, and said, "Then it is truly a pleasant wind which blows us in here. We were given your name by a mutual...friend, as I believe you are already aware. He said that you could use a pair of highly capable specialists, and that we would be welcome to approach you. I wish, though, that he had been a bit more complete in his description of you. He made no mention whatsoever of your sublime beauty and grace."
Kayla leaned over to Flicker, and whispered, "Vas is the only guy I've ever met who would describe Khyrisse as having 'sublime beauty and grace'. Except for maybe Kieran. He actually called me a 'radiant jewel, illumined by the gentle touch of the evening'. Puh- leeze. Like I hadn't heard that one before."
He went to one knee, acquiescing in the common elven fashion to his new superior. He then rose, and continued, "I believe a more formal introduction is in order. I am Vastarin the Windbourne, an archer and follower of the free spirit of Aerdrie. I also claim some modest talent with magic. My sister...excuse me for a moment."
At that, he turned to see if his sister, Val, was paying attention. She was currently talking in a low tone to Kevin, who had apparently put on his "that's-ok-you-can-tell-me" face. She appeared far less playful than she had been, and Kayla, Flicker, and Ubert were in a position to see that she actually looked distant and sad. Kevin noticed Vas turn to them, and nudged Val to perk up. She smiled in a melancholy sort of way, and then leaned over the bar and kissed him on the cheek. She then turned, and joined her brother with the rest of the group.
"So, have you yet dazzled her with your charm and wit?" joked Val, in a rather good attempt to hide that she had been down. Vas nodded with a wry grin, and bowed to his sister with an exaggerated sweep. "Afraid not, my dear. She seems quite the stone wall." He winked at Khyrisse. "I'm afraid she might not take to my attentions. Perhaps you should have a go at her." He stepped aside elegantly, allowing Val to face Khyrisse.
She smiled sweetly to Khyrisse as she approached her. "You will have to pardon my brother's comments. It has been a long and...tiresome journey. I am Valende Shiarintal, priestess to our Bright Star, Corellon Larethian, and an avowed slayer of the undead. My brother and I offer our swords and our hearts to you as bondsmen and as allies." She dropped elegantly to one knee in allegiance, her eyes never leaving Khyrisse's face.
Khyrisse blinked in astonishment twice, once for the immediate offer of allegiance, and once for being accused of "sublime beauty". After her mind got hold of itself, she smiled again, and pulled Val gently to her feet. "Thank you, both of you. I didn't really need that formal a declaration of allegiance," Khyrisse said, blushing a little in what was probably acute embarrassment, "but I thank you for the sentiment, and I accept." She looked very wry as she added, "Luthien must have told you more about me than I expected."
"Actually, dear lady, he told us very little. Least of all, he didn't tell us how soon you would be leaving Lianth. Are we going somewhere, and do we have time to eat first?" Vas turned to the rest of the group with a friendly smile, and waved hi.
Val looked over at Jack, taking the card from his hand and tucking it into her dcolletage. "Pardon me, sir," she asked, pretending to ignore Jack's eyes as they followed the path of his card, "but are you aware that your bag is doing a marvelous impersonation of a mimic with indigestion?"
The cat, meanwhile, had been licking itself.

Character(s):: The Rat
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the rat saw
Title of Post:: Don't let the rat out of the bag

"Well, this is great," thought the rat. "Just when someone finally gets a clue, a cat shows up."
The rat was discouraged. He felt he was getting through to one of the humans when he put him back in his satchel. Oh well. Might as well make himself home.
Turning once in a circle the rat over-looked his nest to make sure he got it right. Yep, the shiny piece of paper was chewed in the right spots. The various napkins with the awful tasting black bits were torn and placed accordingly and even the hard, shiny metal things were in their proper places. But wait, what was this? The rat sniffed one section of the nest and was confused. There was an odd odor here. The rat knew he didn't mark this area when he made the nest. He also knew that the humans didn't put anything into the satchel while he was out. Strange. The rat looked over his topological construction once more. It was then he saw it. It was subtle, but it was there. One of the shreds of shiny paper was torn differently than he remembered tearing it. The rat groaned inwardly. This one factor changed the whole meaning of his nest construction! At least it changed it to him. He hoped that the human who actually seemed to understand net topology didn't get the wrong idea and decide to head to the wrong place. But then again, he might just have.

Character(s):: The Once And Future Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Rumi Rumi, We Gotta Go

Jack shrugged as he hoisted the satchel over his shoulder. "It's got a rat in it. I think it's commissioned me for a job as translator. We both speak net topology."
"Whatever that is," muttered Kevin.
"Anyway, anyone else who wants to follow the rat is welcome to come along."
Jack strode happily out of the bar, then took a deep breath, hoping he hadn't made too much of an ass out of himself in front of the women. Jack's luck with women wasn't so great, ever since the, uh, problem with Amendolin. Occasionally Jack cursed his father for giving him the geek demeanor.
Then Jack noticed that his horse was gone.
"Oh, crap in a bucket," he muttered. "I knew I shouldn't have trusted a town with a guy hanging in a vat of piranha."
"Can I be of assistance?" a young blonde woman in a tight-fitting robe asked.
"Someone stole my horse," Jack replied with his characteristic lack of wit around attractive women.
"Hmm," the cute blonde murmured. "Well, I don't know 'locate object', but I could maybe help you look around."
"That'd, uh, be great," Jack said. "I'm Jack Paris. My card." Deftly avoiding the rat, Jack procured a card from his satchel.
"Nice to meetcha, Jack," the blonde smiled. "I'm Ariath. Uh, no relation."

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Racing to Rumi with Rats and Revenants
Title of Post:: You lie like a rug, Evil Dougmaster!

Khyrisse blinked and stared after Jack. She shrugged. "I think we're in a hurry..." Turning to Val and Vas, she asked, "Would you mind if we ate on the way to Rumi?"
Vas, with an impish look in his eye, put one hand to his forehead and feigned dismay. "I'm likely to get indigestion, but for the sake of so charming an employer, I suppose we must... Val?" He turned to his sister, who smiled serenely and nodded, turning away to get their things.
Khyrisse rolled her eyes, also smiling, and turned to Skitch. She quickly checked him out for bites and scratches, Skitch squirming in protest the whole time. "Aw, c'mon! You're wrinkling my tunic!"
"Shut up, Skitch," Khyrisse said, swabbing the scratches with alcohol and dropping his tunic back down. He sighed and yanked at the hem. "Can we GO now?"
"Would you go get us something to eat from Ubert?" She rummaged in her belt pouch and gave a handful of coins to Kevin.
Skitch looked at her with a dubious frown.
"You don't think you can wheedle it out of him?" Khyrisse inquired, arching an eyebrow at him.
"Hah!" Skitch said and bolted after Ubert, who had given up in disgust and gone back to the kitchen. Shouting suddenly erupted from the kitchen again. Kevin rolled his eyes. Khyrisse, looking amused, waved to Kevin and Kayla and went out the door after Jack.
"Oh," she said upon seeing the newcomer. "Hi." She glanced from the girl to Jack and back again. "What's going on?"
"His horse got stolen," the blonde girl supplied with a smile.
"Hmm. I guess you'll need a ride, then." Khyrisse pulled a heavily embroidered piece of fabric from underneath her black leather top. Walking into the street, she made sure the space before her was clear, with no one likely to run across it. She then hit the scrap of fabric lightly with the handle of her whip and tossed it forwards. "All aboard...!"
A sudden gust of wind swept down the street, away from Khyrisse, carrying on it the distant sound of bells. The diamond-shaped piece of fabric metamorphosed into a black coach, with a team of four somewhat eerie-looking black horses standing in harness before it. The coach was a large one, over twelve feet long, with an intricate silver border inscribed around the doors and roof and wheels. On the passenger door facing them was a seal, the design of which matched the pattern of the fabric Khyrisse had been holding. Skitch, standing in the doorway with an enormous packed lunch in his arms, grinned. "I love that part."

Character(s):: Val and Vas (and the little furball)
Author:: Evan Haag
Storyline:: Rats and Rumi
Title of Post:: All Aboard for Rumi (wherever that is)

Val walked outside of the Mithril Dagger with Khyrisse, a small smirk on her face. She couldn't help but notice how much Jack was trying to hide his self-consciousness, and it was absolutely adorable. She sighed to herself, and remembered her new vows. It's not going to be easy, that's for sure. At least I have a good reason to avoid Flicker.
As she got outside, she noticed (along with everyone else) Jack talking to a cute blonde with a bemused look on his face. When the blonde turned to the group and mentioned his stolen horse, she started looking intently about for the poor creature. Before she was able to suggest that she start looking for it, though, Khyrisse pulled out her driver's whip and a piece of expensive cloth. Within an eyeblink, the cloth transformed into an eerie-looking carriage with four wicked looking steeds.
This is DEFINITELY one of Luthien's friends, thought Val, as she stared at the magical coach. She shook her head, wondering about the prospect of working for this strange elven woman.
Meanwhile, Vas had been saying a few last playful goodbyes to Kayla, causing him to skip lightly backwards out the door of the Dagger as he mock-dodged whatever she was planning on throwing at him. He took a few more steps backwards, bowed towards the smirking barmaid one last time, and then turned, coming face to face with one of the phantasmal steeds attached to Khyrisse's carriage. "Gaah!" He jumped back about five feet, hand immediately going to his sword belt. Val grabbed him, and whispered something quickly into his ear. He immediately regained his composure, straightened his cloak, and turned to Khyrisse. "Ah, well, I see we have ample space for all of us. I take it, though, that you will not be joining us in the coach? Such a pity. My sister and I had been hoping to speak with you before we reached our destination. Now, it seems I must have only the passing landscape to bring joy to my eyes. *Sigh*" He raised his hand to his forehead and feigned a swoon, and then turned to his sister and took her hand. "Ladies first."
Khyrisse touched the seal on the side of the carriage, and the door sprang open. "If you'd like, there's room for three on the driver's seat. If you and your sister want to ride up top, you may." Her mouth twitched as she added, "It'll be a squeeze, but somehow I don't think you'll mind."
Val rolled her eyes again as her brother's grin took on a (more) mischievous aspect. He bowed again, slightly, and said, "Good lady, I would be delighted. I do not presume to speak for my sister, though; her thoughts are quite different from mine where travel is concerned."
Khyrisse turned to Val. "It does travel quite quickly. Would you like to ride up top, or would you prefer the compartment?"
Val paused for a moment, then answered. "I think perhaps I would like to ride inside, this time. Perhaps then I can get to know our other traveling companions. Speaking of which, would you be so kind as to help me inside, my darling Jack?" She turned to Jack and the newcomer, hand outstretched to him.
The cat, meanwhile, had followed the group outside, and had spent a few moments while they talked playing with the strap on Val's satchel. Getting bored with this, he looked around a bit, and then decided that Jack's leg was the most appropriate thing in the immediate area to use as a scratching post.
Khyrisse turned and looked at the cat, eyes wide, for a moment. Shaking her head, she then turned back to the Carriage. "Wait just a second while I get my maps out, Vas, and then you can come up." She climbed up to the driver's seat, to rummage around in the compartment beneath it.

Character(s):: Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: Farewells

"Hey," said Kayla. "Take care of yourself."
Through the temperamental door of the tavern, Flicker could see the flirty elf, some blond human woman, and the cat all competing for Jack's attention. Khyrisse was up on the driver's board, burrowing under the seat; Vas was watching her bobbing backside appreciatively, and Skitch was glaring daggers at him. "It doesn't look like I'm the one you need to be worrying about," he said. "This may be an interesting journey."
"Vas is harmless," she said.
"Well," he said, "I'll--try not to die on you."
"I'd appreciate that."
Khyrisse snapped her whip outside. "Flicker!" she yelled. "Are you coming or not?"
Flicker tapped his fingers on the bar. "Hey Khyrisse!" he called. "Your right rear wheel's out of alignment."
"It is?" There was a thunk as she jumped off the coach.
Flicker leaned across the bar. "I'll see you when I get back," he said softly.
"Flicker, you liar, this wheel is fine!"
"Bye," whispered Kayla, and winked.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, "Ariath"
Author:: That Dastardly Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Paris to Rumi

Jack Paris clambered into the weird carriage that had appeared before him. Its topology was completely symmetric, and he noticed the slight bending of magic's rounding of pi in the wheels. Definitely arcane. Jack hoped that it didn't bend time and or space... he really didn't want to have to explain what would happen if his constants on those were altered. His new friend, the young mage Ariath, stayed there, talking to Vas. It looked like flirting. It figured. She did seem to keep looking in at Flicker, who was lagging behind. Was she showing some recognition? Jack couldn't tell. The rat in the satchel was still, but Jack thought it would be okay in the carriage to let it get its legs. He opened the satchel to let the rat go its way.
Kayla waved to the party from the door of the Dagger.
After a few minutes, Ariath climbed into the carriage, lagging behind.

***
"I need you to arrange an... accident," the woman said to the tall, handsome man with the sullen sneer. "In the past, I've worked with Alverado, but he doesn't seem to be taking contracts any more. I was referred to you."
Charles Of-No-Matter opened the bag on the table between them. There was a wealth in gems inside. He pulled the bag shut and slid it back to the woman. "I don't need it," he said. "Flicker, I'll do for free."

Character(s):: Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: Bad Omens

Flicker hopped up into the coach, flashing a wave back at Kayla. "MGGRRAO!" said the cat, loudly and insistently. Flicker looked down at him. "Do--you want to come?" He looked across at Jack and the rat. "And if he does, do we have anywhere to put him where he won't panic the--" Before he could finish his sentence, the cat uncoiled his sleek body and leapt to the step, and then the driver's board, where he immediately sprawled lazily across the footrest and started batting at the reins.
"Looks like we've got us a coachman," said Jack.
"In Riklandir," said Flicker, "cats are omens of death."
Khyrisse leaned down to the coach window, her hair hanging. "Flicker," she said, "when Sunny had dreams, didn't that usually mean someone was going to die?"
"Not always," he said. "She dreamed about her own death a lot, but she was kind of a tragic figure."
"So you still think we should go."
"In Riklandir," he said, "one always goes towards bad omens. That way, at least you die facing forwards."
"Cheerful bunch," said Jack.

Character(s):: Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: Ariath Redux

Jack realized he hadn't actually introduced the friendly blond mage to anyone. She had just sort of climbed into the carriage and joined the group without comment, smiling at Jack. Probably hoping he'd come to his senses and introduce her soon. "Um, this is Ariath," he said, awkwardly.
"A lovely name," said Flicker, deadpan.


Character(s):: Shannon
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: In the Garden

Shannon lifted it with the handle of the pitchfork, contemplating it with a narrow eye. Their tails were knotted together and they were all dead. She leaned in a bit and touched the tails, without flinching back, and then she flipped the pitchfork deftly over her head and around and watched the tangle of rats go flying over the hedge. Shannon stuck the pitchfork tines down into the earth. "You'll live to regret that, Eric, you petty bastard."

Character(s):: Jack Paris, "Ariath"
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Strike Two For Jack

Ariath immediately turned her attentions back to Vastarin. "Nice hair," she said, her hand sweeping across his manga puff.
Jack sighed. It wasn't the first time he had been tossed over for another guy, and his second since the storyboard began. "At least you like me, right, Rat?" he said soothingly.
He failed to capture the Rat's attention.
The carriage took off with a start, and Jack was suddenly fascinated. His eyes dilated and unfocused to keep from locking on any particular landmark. He was watching the speed. The Trade Carriage was moving at an exponential rate, heading southwest towards Rumi, into occupied Nylevia. The rate of speed increase was phenomenal. Jack gauged it to be at least 71.8 inches per turn, using the Metric System that Jack preferred. Colors blurred by, but Jack wasn't interested. He was trying to measure the wheel size by comparing rate to current eye level. By the time he had finished, seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, the carriage was slowing. "I think it best if we don't come in like a bat out of hell," Jack heard from the front of the carriage.
"Here, let me help," Ariath said. "That wind really messed it up."
Jack smiled ruefully and turned to face Rumi.

Character(s):: Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and mouse
Title of Post:: Remembering Rumi

The last time Lian had played Rumi, Flicker was remembering, had been before Duke Kostarin had paved these streets; before Faraker, before Trade, and long before Cynystra, in a time he used to think was simpler. Flicker's head was on straighter and he was quite sure it had not actually been, but it made him nostalgic just the same. The last time Lian had played Rumi must have been twelve or thirteen years ago. She had married Gordon not long before that and even a port as mundane and dirty as Rumi had seemed somehow reborn. The last time he had seen Rumi.
Flicker watched Ariath play with Vas' hair as the coach pulled up to the gate.

***
Blackbeard shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said, ruefully. "I'm still in a, ah, adjustment period with the Lord of Light here. Maybe if you could bring the thing here."
"I'M not carrying ten goddamn Riklandic rats down the Jotun's Hand. Don't you look at ME." The priest shrugged. "Those things are two feet long and they're DISGUSTING."
Jason looked up from the runes. "Eren's in trouble," he said.
"Ragnarokkr can take care of himself," said Sigrid. "Find out about the rats."


Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch and Patches
Author:: Kristin L. K. Andersen
Storyline:: Rats, Rumi, and Realignments
Title of Post:: The Rumi Express

Khyrisse staggered down off the driver's board, gold-brown curls coming out of her once-severe braid in every possible direction. She looked kind of dazed. "What the hell...?" Khyri circled the carriage, blinking at it in astonishment. "And what happened to the roof, anyway?" She muttered, glancing upwards as she kicked the wheel. "Flicker, you WERE kidding about the wheel, right?"
Skitch jumped down after her, clutching the terrified cat and a very squashed parcel that might have contained a packed lunch, once upon a time. "Wow! I've never seen it go that fast!! What happened?"
"I have no idea, kiddo!" Khyrisse gave up and straightened her wind-blown attire. "*whew* Welcome to Rumi, everyone." She wandered back to the driver's seat, redoing the magical equations under her breath.
Patches sat down on the road near the gate and furiously cleaned himself, glaring up at the Trade Carriage every so often.

Character(s):: Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: Arrival

"I was just kidding," Flicker assured her, and climbed out of the coach. "That was quite a ride. Shalini would really have enjoyed it. What's wrong with the roof?"

Character(s):: The Artist Formerly Known As Jack Paris, "Ariath"
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Rumi With A View

Jack watched the mage mumble to herself. She was wondering why her math wasn't working. Jack could tell the look. Unfortunately, he thought he knew the cause, and it was he. Jack's life had certain constants that sometimes overlapped onto his environment, especially where particularly complex magicks were in play. Jack had to remember to focus next time he rode, lest something more dire happen. "So, uh, everyone, this is Rumi."
"I know," Flicker said. "I've... been here before."
"Right," Jack said. "Just expositing. Sorry."
The rat was still in Jack's satchel. Jack wondered if it had fallen asleep. It had certainly been through a lot, recently, the tests he had to endure to make it to the kitchen, defending his mission from such as Ubert, and perhaps the cat. Jack petted it gently, unworried about another bite. Something was going on in Rumi. Jack couldn't see what, but he heard one word clearly, shouted from the crowd gathered in the town square. "Pirate."
Jack shrunk back. Maybe Rumi wasn't such a good idea.
Ariath glanced quickly at a small paper in her hand, before it disappeared from sight. "So," she said to Vas. "You're in charge, right? Where should we go now?"

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