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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Lost Souls, Part V

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ariath
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: Someone To Talk To

Khyrisse and Ariath sat inside the Carriage at the edge of the clearing, one woman sprawled across each of the velvet-cushioned benches. One door stood open, and the fire's light came through it, adding a rosy flickering glow to that of the lanterns. The last of the day's light was fading from the sky.
Khyrisse handed the bottle back across the aisle to Ariath and leaned against the side wall, staring out the door at the dancing flames. She sipped her wine thoughtfully. "Are you sure you want to hear about this?" she asked finally, with a little laugh. "It's bound to be dull."
"Sure," Ariath said, pouring herself a second glass and putting the bottle on the floor. "I mean, I knew him as Kardia Blackfeather, and he was a real jerk-- but he acted totally different around you. I guess I'm kind of curious."
Khyrisse sighed. "All right, lemme see if I can make some of this brief. I had an older brother, and we used to run around doing... this kind of thing," she waved out the door at the Rat Pack, "when we were teenagers."
"Drinking and getting into trouble?" Ariath grinned. Khyrisse grinned back. "Yes. Well, when Karel was eighteen he married this girl in Cynystra, Miyrr Minarye."
"Yow. That's a mouthful."
"You never heard such a collection of names. Ye gods. Miyrr was pretty cool, though; I liked her. But they're really old-fashioned in some ways, in Cynystra. When you marry into a family, you're really part of that family. Miyrr's father had the same kind of control over me-- theoretically," Khyrisse hastened to add with a twist of her mouth, and Ari chuckled, "that he did over his own daughter."
"What about your parents?"
"My mother was missing and presumed dead... and my father was completely loopy," Khyrisse said quietly, bluntly.
"Ouch. Geez," Ariath bit her lip and stared into her glass. "How old were you?"
"Fifteen. I was twelve when everything fell apart. It could have been worse. I had a happy childhood. Some people don't even have that."
"Yeah... I know." Ari downed the rest of her wine and poured herself another glass.
"Sorry..." Khyrisse said, hesitantly. She leaned forward and lifted half of the seat cushion of her bench. It swung up on hinges, the lid to a compartment under the seat. She scrabbled around inside it and pulled out a black beaded bag. Khyrisse offered it to Ariath with her finger on her lips. "Shh...! It's chocolate, want some?"
Ariath grinned and took out a piece of candy. She popped it into her mouth and poured another glass of wine for Khyrisse.
"So. Anyway. Karel got married, I was out of an adventuring partner, and Miyrr's father was probably going to try marrying me off to some fool nobleman. Nuh-uh."
"What'd you do? Run away?"
"I didn't have to. I met my ex-husband at the wedding reception." Khyrisse perused the ring on her finger. She didn't continue, her thoughts miles away.
"Is that your wedding ring?" Ariath asked hesitantly. Khyri started a little.
"Oh. Yeah, more or less," she said, and slipped it off her finger. She handed it to Ariath. Ariath, after a brief pause, put it carefully on her finger and held out her hand to look at it. "Wow. It's gorgeous," Ariath said. "What kind of stone is this? Is it black?"
"Very dark red, although sometimes it seems black. I never found out what it was, really. It's not anything I've ever seen before."
Ariath took it back off and returned it to her. "So, you got married to him instead?"
"Not really... He had a personal friend in the family-- Pieret Minarye, Miyrr's youngest uncle. He ran the family's merchant house. Eric told Pieret that I was good at math, and Pieret took me on as an apprentice. He taught me about finance and trade for the next five years."
"And then you got married?"
"Nope. Then I got divorced. Explosively." Khyrisse sighed. "A few years after that, Pieret met me for dinner near the border. He told me all about the family, we talked about my taking over some of the Minarye trading house's foreign interests... he made sort of a pass at me..."
"And?"
"And my ex-husband's familiar teleported in behind his chair and killed him. Eric then pushed Pieret's body onto the floor, sat down, and icily told me that he didn't like poachers. I ran like hell."
Ariath's eyes were huge. "Geez!" she half-shrieked. "What an asshole!!"
Khyrisse smiled at her, kind of sad and puzzled. "We're talking about someone murdering Kardia Blackfeather, too, you know."
"Oh. Right." Ariath sighed.


Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Jack Paris, Private Schmuck
Title of Post: Jack Kicks Himself

Jack was livid with himself.
"I had him," he muttered to himself. "He as good as confessed, and I freaking let him off the hook! I am such a putz!"
"Hmm?" asked Val. Jack was getting tired of people wandering up behind him without his noticing. Good way to get backstabbed, he mused.
"Nothing," Jack moped.
"I came in at 'he as good as confessed,' dear. You'll have to do better than that."
"It's Ebreth. He was all ready to tell me the truth, but he was so upset about it, I, uh, kinda let him off the hook."
Jack looked up at Val with big puppy-mathematician eyes. "I'll see what I can do about getting you another chance. This is important to more people than just you, Jack."
"I guess so..." Jack sighed. "But, um, don't push him about it... he really does seem upset."
Val smiled and headed off.
"'He really does seem upset'?" Jack castigated himself. "It's Ebreth Tor! I am such a total dork."

Character(s): Tarrin and Skitch, Flicker and Luthien
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings/Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: To Pass The Time

Tarrin sighed at the darkening light. "Oh, little Skitch," he said, sadly. "I am missing my children so much."
Skitch chewed his lip. "I, I bet they miss you too," he offered. "If you were at home, what would you do with them?"
"I would tell them fairy tales," he said. "Diari fairy tales are best fairy tales in the world."
"You--could tell them to me." Skitch edged a little closer.
"I think mabye I would like that."

***
"He's not really undead," Flicker pointed out, and turned Luthien's shirt inside out. He was starting to get really good at getting things like ichor out of silk. "She just raised him from the dead, really. It's just that he's bound to her now."
"Indefinitely?"
"Until she dies," he said.
"Really. I'll keep that in mind."
"I'm sorry about the company," said Flicker, regretfully. "You just can't take her anywhere."
"Talk in a language I can understand, Ragnarokkr."

Character(s): Ariath
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Girl Talk

"So, uh... how do you feel about Ebreth?" said Ariath.
Khyrisse rubbed her mouth. "Um," she said, "dare."
"Okay," said Ariath, "I dare you to, uh, French kiss Tarrin."
"Ari!" shrieked Khyrisse. The two women collapsed into each other across the aisle, chortling. "But the look on his face would be--" gasped Ariath.
There was a sharp rap on the outside of the carriage. Ariath sat up sharply. "Tor," she snapped, "can't you see this is a girls' night?"
"And my Y chromosome and I will be right out of here," he assured her, his eyes twinkling. "Khyrisse hasn't gotten any dinner yet. All this wine on an empty stomach. It's not good for the digestion." He held in a bowl filled with a steaming elven rice dish. "Val made this. It's some good stuff."
The tips of his fingers brushed the tips of Khyrisse's as he gave it to her. "Thank you," mumbled Khyrisse.
"Thank you!" said Ariath. "Goodbye!" She shoved him out the carriage door and slammed it behind him. "Buttinsky," she said.
Khyrisse realized she was hungry.
"Okay," said Ariath, settling back down. "Truth."
Khyrisse sighed.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ariath
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: Truth or Dare

Khyrisse tasted the rice dish. It was pretty good. Better than she cooked, certainly.
She was hungry. She didn't pay much attention to things like that, nowadays.
Somebody apparently did.
She curled up with the bowl on her lap and smiled radiantly at it.
"That has got to be the sappiest expression I've ever seen on your face," Ari giggled. Khyrisse hurriedly got rid of it. "Come on. Truth!"
"Um," Khyrisse said, and quickly put another spoonful in her mouth. "After I eat?"
"No, now!"
"Mabye I should go kiss Tarrin instead," she mused.
"Fess up!"
Khyrisse groaned in exasperation and looked at the ceiling. "I like him a lot. He's very sexy, both in looks and in... I dunno, behavior?"
"Like giving massages?" Ariath asked, lifting an amused eyebrow.
"OH yes," Khyrisse sighed, grinning. "Plus, he's got this nice guy aura mixed somehow with a dangerous man aura, and I'm known to be attracted to both. Combine them, and-- well!" She flopped back onto the cushions, puffing out an overwhelmed breath.
"Mmmm. I think I see what you mean." Ari smiled slowly, contemplating this.
"I think Ebreth and I have a lot in common. I think he needs someone to talk to, someone to trust him," Khyrisse added, finishing with, "And he scares me to death."
"Why?"
"My ex-husband was like that. Bad things happened because I loved him a little too much. Let's leave it at that." Khyrisse poured another glass of wine for herself, and took a sip, and went back to eating her dinner. "My turn," she said cheerfully.
"Uh oh," Ariath said, and picked up the bottle.
Khyrisse pointed the spoon at her and squinted at her over it, as if she were aiming. "Exactly what connection do you have to the Ariath that used to be in Bloodscar?"
Ariath blinked. "Um... dare?"
"You have to... stand on the roof of the Carriage and do a strip-tease for Vas." Khyrisse grinned evilly. Information or entertainment; what the hell, she could use either one... "Truth or dare?"

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: And As Long As Ebreth's Ears Are Burning...

"Flicker?" Luthien felt kind of stupid, seeing bogeymen from his teenage years in random friends of Khyrisse's, but if he didn't ask he was going to keep thinking about it. "Did that black guy with Khyrisse remind you at all of--of Ebreth Tor?"
"He is Ebreth Tor," said Flicker, softly.
"He is?" Luthien leaned forward. "And you didn't kill him?"
Flicker sighed. "I'm not in a position to be throwing stones, Luthien," he said. "Something's happened to him. I don't know what yet. He's changed somehow."
"Does Khyrisse know about this?"
"They all know about it," he said.
"Well," said Luthien, "I certainly hope she knows what she's doing."

Character(s): Ariath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets
Title of Post: Ariath Spills The Beans

"Fine, fine," Ariath sighed. "You want the truth?"
"I can handle the truth," Khyrisse giggled.
"I'm her sister," Ariath said. "But don't you dare tell people. She screwed so much up for our family. You know, her name isn't really even Ariath? It's Dyre. She thought it was funny to go around using my name to do her stuff."
"That really... sucks," Khyrisse said, swigging again.
"But, like, she was my sister, and I totally looked up to her. I even met the gang she rode with a few times."
"Bloodscar."
"Yeah. Man, I thought they were the coolest thing. Then I heard about their helping the demon invasion and I finally saw Dy for who she really was... then she got killed."
"So you really are a mage?"
"Duh, Khyri! You even saw me, remember? I understand that you figured I was her... we look a lot alike."
"So why keep using the name? You know, we always used to cheer ourselves up by reminding ourselves that 'Ariath's still dead'."
"It's my name, and even though she ruined it, I'm getting my revenge. I'm reforming her after she's dead. Someday people are going to think 'Ariath--she's that great sorceress who saved us all.' People will want to name their kids after me, and little girls will try to grow up doing the right thing because of my example. And then Dy will have lost all the legacy she left behind."
"I'm... sorry," Khyrisse said.
"Please don't tell anyone... nobody would ever suspect someone wanted to pretend to be 'Ariath'. If they think I'm really her, it makes it that much more my victory."
"You are one crazy chick, Ari," Khyrisse grinned.
"Your turn."
"Is it safe to ask for truth?"
"Duh! No!"
"Then gimme truth!"
"Okay..." Ariath thought for a moment. "Did you really sleep with Maxwell Silverhammer?"

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Socializing
Title of Post: Guys' Night Out

Ebreth stepped back into the shadow of a tree and watched himself disappear, his ink-black skin melting into the night. He couldn't even see himself. He shook his head and stepped back out into the light of Bane, where he just looked like a creepy piece of black marble. Ebreth wondered whether Khyrisse had given him this look because she thought it would look good or because she saw him as some kind of creature of the night. Ebreth sighed and knocked the heel of one hand against the back of the other, looking across the camp at Jack. Lita Paris. Ebreth couldn't feel guilty, of course, but he did feel bad. And Jack was having a hard day, Ebreth reminded himself. The thing with his father had hit him pretty hard. And he got the feeling the guy couldn't help having all the wrong reasons for everything.
And Ebreth was pretty bored.
He dropped the cards on the ground near the brooding mathematician, flicking his wrist so that they fell in a fan. Jack jerked; he obviously hadn't heard Ebreth coming. "Hey, Paris. You want to take some of my money the honest way this time?"
"What?" said Jack.
"Take it easy," said Ebreth, and grinned at him. "I'm asking you to whup my ass at a little poker."

Character(s): Khyrisse and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Secret of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: ...Maidens Aspiring to Godheads

Khyrisse put the bag of chocolate back under the seat and shut the lid. The buzz was wearing off, and she had the sneaking suspicion that she had said more to Ariath than she wanted to. The mere idea made her feel twitchy. Why is it that I always tell people things, and then regret it? Why don't I just keep my mouth shut in the first place? She sighed. Tomorrow, if she knew herself at all, she'd be cranky and uncommunicative as a backlash of this. That would be fun, do doubt. It could share time with the hangover.
Which was part of the problem. It had been twenty-five years since alcohol had affected her at all, and now she got drunk too fast and it made her say whatever she happened to be thinking. She'd talked her head off to Max that one night, cried on his shoulder after that disastrous trip to see Schneider, and now she couldn't look him in the eye. Well, that was all right. She couldn't look Schneider in the eye, either. Khyrisse groaned and dropped her forehead onto the seat cushion.
I should go to sleep.
Who am I kidding, I couldn't sleep now...
I could study.
J.R.A.I.
Finding someone to talk to is right out.
Finding someone to do better things than talking to is definitely out.
She felt like she was going to twitch right out of her skin any second now. She'd had these attacks of feeling... confined, crippled... mortal... ever since she'd appeared in the alley near the Mithril Dagger. They were worse after she came back from Bane. Her body felt like an old, badly constructed prison, gradually falling in around her. Her lungs tensed up like a clenched fist, struggling after air and keeping it out at the same time. Khyrisse gave up and scrambled blindly out of the coach.
Merde.

***
"Valende?"
Valende looked up from reorganizing the items in her cook's pack, next to the fire. "Yes, milady?"
"Valende, I hate to bother you," Khyrisse said, very quietly, "but I wanted to go do something, something private, and I can't go off alone. Would you... would you come with me and keep an eye on things while I'm busy?" Valende blinked a little in surprise, and glanced across the clearing to where Jack and Ebreth were playing cards. It looked like Jack was getting his opportunity to talk to Ebreth again. Hence, Ebreth was clearly... otherwise occupied for the moment.
When she looked back, however, she noted the rather wild look on her employer's face, the restless motion of her hands up and down her sleeves, the backpack over one shoulder. Valende began to understand. "Certainly. I'll tell Vas that we'll be back..." she cocked her head inquiringly.
"Later. I don't know."
Valende nodded and gathered her things. "Will we be far, milady?"
"No. There's another clearing that way, further away from the road. That's probably where we'll be."
"All right."


Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everybody Tell Their Secrets
Title of Post: At Long Last... Jack Kicks Ebreth's Butt

"You're cheating, Paris," Ebreth sighed. "You're way too pleasant to be this good at poker."
"I'm a mathematician. Poker is statistics."
"Poker is people," Ebreth corrected. "It's reading people, their expression, and betting based on their personality."
"Then how come I'm kicking your butt, Mr. Personality?"
"Because I can't read you, Paris. I should be able to, you wear your heart on your sleeve, but there's something ineffable that I'm missing." Ebreth tossed another chip into the pot. "Call."
"Flush to the queen," Jack said.
Ebreth looked at his two pair and sighed. "It's all yours, mathematician."
"If it's any consolation, I can't read you either. You don't act like any Ebreth Tor I've ever heard of, but you know a heck of a lot of the same stuff."
"Are we back to playing this game?" Ebreth sighed.
"Val told you to come over and play, didn't she?" Jack looked over to where Val and Khyrisse were heading off into the woods. For a moment, he panicked that Khyrisse was luring Val away to feed on her or kill her or something. Man, this whole thing has got me paranoid, Jack thought.
"No. I'm taking pity on you, Paris."
"For what good it does me. I mean, you've made it clear that you don't want to talk about what I want to know."
"Which is what?"
"Lita."
Ebreth sighed. "One hand," he said. "New deck. You win, I tell you a story. I win, you never ask me again."
Jack looked stunned.
"It's the best deal you're ever going to get, Paris."
Jack dealt the cards.

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