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Khyrisse and Ariath
Lost Souls, Part V
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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,
"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,
Ariath grinned and took out a piece of
candy. She popped it into her mouth and poured another glass of wine for
"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
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
"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 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
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,
"Oh. Right." Ariath sighed.
Jack Paris, Private Schmuck
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
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."
Tarrin and Skitch, Flicker and Luthien
Rat Kings/Skeins of Fate
of Post: To Pass The Time
Tarrin sighed at the darkening light.
"Oh, little Skitch," he said, sadly. "I am missing my children
Skitch chewed his lip. "I, I bet they
miss you too," he offered. "If you were at home, what would you do
"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
"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."
"Until she dies," he said.
"Really. I'll keep that in
"I'm sorry about the company,"
said Flicker, regretfully. "You just can't take her anywhere."
"Talk in a language I can understand,
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 and Ariath
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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?"
"Mabye I should go kiss Tarrin
instead," she mused.
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
"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."
"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?"
Skeins of Fate
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
"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."
Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets
of Post: Ariath Spills The Beans
"Fine, fine," Ariath sighed.
"You want the truth?"
"I can handle the truth,"
"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."
"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,"
"Is it safe to ask for truth?"
"Then gimme truth!"
"Okay..." Ariath thought for a
moment. "Did you really sleep with Maxwell Silverhammer?"
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."
Khyrisse and Valende
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Secret of R.U.M.I.
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.
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.
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."
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
"Poker is people," Ebreth
corrected. "It's reading people, their expression, and betting based on
"Then how come I'm kicking your butt,
"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.
"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,
"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
"Which is what?"
"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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