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Ebreth Tor, gambling man
Like A Bat Out Of Hell, Part I
The Whim Of The Cards
of Post: What Happened To Lita
Jack dealt slowly. "Statistics
doesn't work well over one instance."
"Neither does intuition," said
Ebreth. "We're down to the bare bones of luck here, Paris. Am I fated to
tell you this, or not? Let's find out."
Jack looked at his hand. Crap in a bucket.
"Pair of eights," he said, dejectedly, tossing the cards to the
ground, "a five, a three and a two."
"You're shitting me." Ebreth
spread his in a perfect line. They were the other two eights, a five, a three,
and a two.
Jack stared. "But the--the
probability of that is--" The incredible statistical unlikeliness of the
two hands was so surprising that Jack forgot about Lita for a moment to
calculate it. Then he remembered and lost the calculation. "So what does
Ebreth sighed. "Means I have to make
my own decisions, I guess," he said. "Jack, you don't really want me
to tell you this."
"Yes, I do."
"Ebreth Tor gave her to the Diari
underworld as a savri," he said. "She committed suicide there a month
later." Jack stared. "He went to Hell, Jack. He wasn't a very nice
"Why," said Jack.
"Straight flush." Ebreth snapped
his deck together with a flick of his wrist.
"You lost her at cards?" Jack
couldn't believe this. "She was crazy for you, left everything behind for
you, she would have given you everything she had and you BET HER IN A STUPID
"I told you you didn't want to know
this--" Ebreth stood, raising both of his hands. "I should have made
up some pseudo-romantic bullshit--"
Jack Paris was having a really miserable
Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets
of Post: Jack's Bad Day
Jack was stunned. Malice he had
expected... this... this valuelessness was shocking.
"What did the other guy bet?" he blurted out before he
could think of anything rational to ask.
Ebreth gave him an annoyed look.
"It's not important."
There were a lot of things absent from
Jack's makeup, but logic wasn't one of them.
went to Hell," Jack said out loud. "And Goatboy came looking for
escapees from hell. In Rumi. Where we found you."
"Is this a question?" Ebreth
"Only if you're going to answer
Ebreth Tor, refugee
Like A Bat Out Of Hell
of Post: Dreams of a Distant Past
Ebreth Tor turned his back. "What
happened to me is none of your business," he said. "If it makes you
feel any better, Ebreth Tor spent nine years in Hell, and whatever your angry
imagination can come up with is pathetically inadequate, and then his soul was
completely eradicated. There is nothing left of the man but a bunch of bad
dreams in the back of a coward's brain. What do you want me to say, Jack? I
remember her, of course, but... they're not my memories. I have no emotional
connection to them. It's like I saw them in a play. Now I can have nightmares
about these things till the foghorn blows, but I can't apologize for what the
characters did, come on. I can't regret that, and he--wouldn't." Ebreth
did not look back. "I can't give you what you want, Jack. I'm sorry."
That had not made either of them feel
better. With a heavy heart Ebreth lost himself in the shadows at the edge of
camp, resolved yet again to have a better day tomorrow, put his head in his
hands and tried to summon the courage to fall asleep.
of Post: The Traveling Psychiatrist
Skitch watched Khyrisse stumble off with
Val. "Can't you help her, Tarrin?" he pleaded, with all a
ten-year-old's blind faith in his hero.
Tarrin caught up with the two women and
put his hand on Khyrisse's shoulder. "Leave me alone," she cried.
Tarrin looked at her. "You are the sad woman," he said, gently.
"Your son he worries about you." He extended his hand towards her
temple and hesitated. "May I touch the mind? I promise not to be a, how do
I say, a butthead, and touch all those other people."
Khyrisse really hesitated hard. She
thought of Skitch and sighed. "Okay, I guess. If you're sure it will only
"This is my job," he assured
her. "I am a professional doofus." He put his fingers lightly on the
side of her head. "Ah," he said. "You had a bad husband.
Sometimes that happens even in the Diaria. He abused your trust. Yes?"
"Yeah," said Khyrisse, a little uncomfortably.
"Now you feel mabye not good
enough." He took his fingers back. "Mabye you think you are a low
value woman. But you are wrong. You were only low value to him." The Diari
priest nodded sagely. "To other people you can be the high quality friend.
I have seen this many times. You feel out of place in everywhere because you
don't believe in yourself. You believe you will fail, hurt people, do the bad
job. So you pull back. Then you fail, hurt people, do the bad job. Then you
believe it. Break that chain. You have many gifts to give, Khyri. You only need
to believe you can give them."
Khyrisse blinked at him. This was much
more upbeat than when Wyvern did it.
"Many gifts," repeated Tarrin.
"Mabye bad husband didn't need you. He is only one man. The Skitch needs
you. Many other peoples need you. And you are good enough." He smiled at
her. "Good as Diari woman even. Only you need to believe your gifts worth
giving." He made a little bow with his head and moved serenely back to camp.
Khyrisse, Skitch, and Tarrin
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Secret of R.U.M.I.
of Post: Ungodly Long Post, But I Couldn't Resist
Khyrisse stared after Tarrin, astonished.
She exchanged a shaky look with Valende after a moment. "Well, that wasn't
what I was expecting..."
Khyrisse came back into the clearing a few
minutes after Tarrin returned. She gave Skitch a kiss and sat down next to him
and the Diari priest. "Are you
mad?" he asked.
"No, I'm not mad," Khyrisse
sighed. "I came back to... um, tell you a story."
Skitch looked at her dubiously. "You
know a fairy tale?"
"Yes, one. The Diari aren't the only
people who can tell fairy tales, you know!" she added, and smirked
impudently at Tarrin. "Shut up and listen." Khyrisse took a deep
breath and began in a clear voice, with only the occasional pause as she
mentally translated from Elven to Dalen.
"Once upon a time, a long time ago,
there was a forest, a forest so big you could walk for days in any direction
and never see the horizon. In this forest there were many animals, and they got
along with each other well enough, usually. Sometimes they got along less well
than everyone would like, but that happens now and then, even in happy
families. Now in this forest, they had a court, just as they have in human
lands. In the forest, it was a court of animals, of course, and the fox was
their queen, because she was the cleverest of all. Each animal had a position
at court-- except for the bat. And the bat was very unhappy about this, because
no one likes to feel left out. You see, no one could agree on just what kind of
animal the bat was. "You aren't a mammal! You have wings! Go sit with the
birds!" the wolf growled. And this was true, so the bat went. "You
aren't a bird! You eat flower pollen! Go sit with the insects!" the hawk
screamed. And this was true, too, so the bat went. "You aren't an insect!
You have fur! Go sit with the mammals!" the bees buzzed. And this was true
as well, but of course the bat couldn't go to sit with the mammals, or it would
all start over again. The bat ran away from the court and watched it from a
distance, very sad. And now the bat was mocked everywhere she went in the
forest, because she had no place at court, and no one would stick up for her.
The bat grew angry at this treatment and
decided that she would show the rest of the animals a thing or two. Early one
morning, when the night-hunters had gone to sleep, but the day-hunters had not
yet woken up, the bat flew high into the sky, looking for the sun. The birds
could not fly all the way to the sun, because its light blinded them, and they
grew dizzy and fell. But the bat did not need to see to fly, of course. And the
insects could not fly to the sun, because they were too small and grew tired.
But the bat was larger than they were, quite as large as the fox queen, and
eventually reached the sun. The bat then wrapped her wings around the glowing
ball. And suddenly, the whole world was dark. Up in the sky, which had turned a
strange sort of purple twilight color, there was only a dim little golden glow,
where the light of the sun leaked out past the edges of the bat's wings. The
rest of the sun was dark, black as the wings that covered it. The whole forest
was in an uproar. The day-hunters could not see to hunt. The night-hunters
could not sleep. The plants could not grow without sunshine. The animals who
ate the plants could not eat what did not grow. The animals who ate other
animals then had nothing to eat, either. Everyone went wailing to the queen,
who nodded wisely and went to the edge of the forest to look. Her eyes were
sharp, and her mind sharper, and she soon figured out what the problem was. She
gave a merry laugh and called up to the bat.
"Little bat, I see you there!"
"And what of it?" said the
"The rest of the animals wish to know
what you have done with the sun!"
"The sun does not seem to mind me at
all. We are very good friends. I may stay up here indefinitely!" replied
the bat pertly.
"I would let you, but I really cannot
have this. Nothing will get done. If you come down, I will give you a special
place at court, higher than anyone but myself."
Well, this of course was a very nice idea,
so the bat came down, a little wobbly from looking right at the sun all that
time. (And you will note that bats seem a little blind ever since, despite
having very big eyes-- but the fur on their stomach and throat is golden brown,
from touching the sun.) And the light returned to the world. All the animals
sighed in relief and went to court, to hear what the fox would do with the bat.
"What is she?" clamored the animals, and since this had been the very
point they had fought over, it was an important question. The fox had the bat
sit a little ways before her, and had everyone look. "Look at the shape of
her head, very like my own, and a tail, like my own. And see, she has fur, in
black and gold instead of red and white. And she is cleverer than any of
you," the queen chided. "She is a fox, of course. A flying fox. And
there is an end to it." And there was."
Khyrisse got up again and dusted off her
"I like it," Skitch said, after
a moment's thought. "Why do you know that one?"
"Dyved tradition says that the bat
was given the name Kyrra-Rycce. Kyrra, meaning the darkening of the sun, and
Rycce, signifying that she was the daughter of the Fox Queen."
Skitch stared for a moment, then fell over
laughing. Khyrisse grinned at Tarrin. "Will you see that the little vandal
gets to bed? I'll be back soon, I just want to stretch my legs a little."
"Yes, I will see that the Skitch goes
to sleep," Tarrin said, smiling at her.
"Expensive flying fox!" Skitch
chortled. "Princess Eclipse!" Khyrisse rolled her eyes in
embarrassment and walked back to join Valende.
Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets Finale
of Post: Jack Resolves
Jack listened to Khyrisse's fairy tale
from across the campsite. In the version Reena had told him, the bat married
the queen, but for the point she was trying to make, it made better sense this
way. Jack missed Reena and Crandall. Both of them would have had a lot of fun
following a talking horse around. But Crandall was dead, and Reena had gone
back to Salagia.
The old days were gone.
He looked to where Ebreth Tor had
disappeared into the shadows. Maybe the old days really were gone. Ebreth
certainly seemed to be moving on, dealing with what he had to and leaving
behind what he didn't. Was it any harder for Jack to do the same?
Jack wasn't sure if Ebreth was telling the
truth, but as best as Jack could tell, the pain seemed real. Jack wasn't sure
if he could ever trust the rogue, but at least he could leave him in peace.
Maybe they could even get along.
People change, Jack said to himself. And I
guess that's something I should encourage. Best of luck with your demons,
Ebreth Tor... you're not going to be one of mine any more.
Instead of his usual reminiscence and
replay in lieu of sleep, this night, Jack tried to dream.
of Post: Rifts
"The King of Kings must
Ebreth Tor sat up with a muted gasp. He
looked around, remembered where he was and what he was doing, and expelled air.
Stupid demon horse. He couldn't be too mad, though. Ebreth Tor was always glad
to see morning come, with its daily promise of a new beginning.
"Coffee," he groaned, and
stumbled over to where Val was holding the coffeepot. She looked at him funny.
Ebreth didn't really care. Khyrisse looked hung-over and didn't seem to have
slept much. Ebreth thought he might suggest that she lay off the bottle a bit
when she was in a slightly better mood. "Break the chaiiiiiiiin," said
Fred, clearly agitated. "The King of Kings must diiiiiiiiiie."
"Yeah, we heard you, bub," said
Ebreth, and drank coffee.
"Where are we going, anyway?"
said Jack. "Diaria? The Doomlands?"
"Oh, no no no!" exclaimed
Tarrin. "I am such a fart! I mean the new rift, yes, the rift here in
Sturtevant. The rift in the Doomlands is much too powerful. And the rift in the
Diaria is--totally different."
"Is it the most beautiful rift in the
world?" said Skitch, hopping up and down.
"Why yes, little Skitch. Yes, it
The Beast moved silently up to the vehicle
and hooked a claw under the handle of the roadside door. The sound of quiet
conversation could be heard in the distance, beyond the Carriage, but none of
it was near enough to concern him.
The Beast and the Collector
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post: Bad Morning to You, Bad Morning to You...
There were many strange smells lingering
in this enclosed space. The stench of Grimthane Darkcloak was present, but
faint, as if it had left the contraption some time ago. The smell of the host
was more recent. The smell of Grimthane Darkcloak's demon ally was present
also, but even more faint
Darkcloak's. This was making very little sense, even for one with Darkcloak's
erratic mode of travel.
The Beast bent closer to sort out this
tangle of traces. There was a collection of scents that blurred much of what he
sought, a strong, recent smell of wine and spices, with an undercurrent of
magic, salt and decay.
A mist began to coalesce in the
compartment with the Beast. It realized too late that the smell of decay was in
the air around it, and not on the vehicle.
The Trade Carriage, parked on the edge of
the campsite, suddenly shook on its
wheels, rocking back and forth. A frightful roaring noise came from the
passenger compartment, accompanied by the sounds of tearing cloth and
splintering wood. As people whirled to stare at the Carriage, there came a
sound familiar to everyone present-- the sound of tearing flesh. There was a
bubbling laugh and an earsplitting howl of pain and rage. The Carriage rocked
one last time, as the Collector's latest victim fled into the early morning
Ebreth Tor, connoisseur
of Post: Heading For The Rift...
"Will you look at that," said
Ebreth, surprised. "Our enemies are attacking each other."
"I'm not sure the beast is really our
enemy," said Vas. "Remember Pieret wasn't really a good guy."
"This is still a welcome departure
from our allies attacking us," said Ebreth.
"We must go to the
"Yes, we're going to the rift, you
stupid demon horse. It's waiting till I finish my coffee, and that's just
Fred looked hurt. "Wiiiiiiilbur. He's
being meeeeeeeeean to me."
"Don't pick on the horse," said
It was a deep, purplish scar across the
land, as far as Ebreth could see in either direction. If Ebreth Tor wasn't so
terrified of the lower planes he really would have found it strangely
beautiful, a chasm of jutting, violet rock, with twisting winged things, made
small by distance, flitting from point to point, some alien landscape carved
into the soil of Ataniel. "Holy shit," he said.
"Break the chaiiiiiiiin,"
whinnied Fred. "The rift is drawing another one neeeeeeeeear."
"So it's, like, Bride of Rift?"
said Ariath, fluttering her lashes.
"If you don't stoooooooop it the King
of Kings will wiiiiiiiiiin!"
"So how do we stop it?" said
Tarrin knew what he must do.
Flicker, Tarrin, Skitch, Shalak, everyone
Laura, fulfilling Jeff's geas
All of 'em
of Post: Laying Blame
"Wow," said Luthien. "This
didn't use to be here, did it?"
"No," said Flicker.
"I assume. It looks kind of like the
one in the Doomlands."
"Is that them over there?"
"Yes..." Flicker's voiced
trailed off. The Diari was doing something. He couldn't tell exactly what, but
he was climbing into the rift, and the gate was pulsing strangely. It reminded
him of-- Flicker stared. "He--he's pouring psychic energy into the--"
He broke for the chasm. Norna caught him from behind. "Ragnarokkr!"
she said. "What are you doing!"
"He's going to collapse a plane of
the Abyss," he shouted, "and blow a hole in Hell the size of--"
Flicker twisted free of Norna and ran. "Zheyrin!" he shouted, at the
top of his lungs. The man's head jerked at the Diari honorific. "Stop,"
shouted Flicker, in Diari, "turn it off, there's too much pressure, you'll
destroy the whole plane--"
As Tarrin broke off his healing energies
the backed-up rift exploded in a pressure wave that broke the sound barrier and
collapsed the chasm in on itself. Smaller abysmal gates erupted across the
Sturtevant countryside like detonating mines as the synergy between the two
planes shot out from the epicenter in search of release. The earth rocked and
"Tarrin!" screamed Skitch. There
was no sign of the Diari priest. "You killed Tarrin, you butthead!"
He flung himself blindly in Flicker's direction; Khyrisse caught him and
wrapped him in her arms. Skitch noticed, through vision that was starting to
blur, that the Diari crystal was in his right hand.
Shalak looked up slowly. Beneath him, the
rift of the Doomlands rocked and was still. "This is all that Beliath's
fault," he said, crossly.
The asteroid slowed, banked, and then
settled into orbit around Saturn while the sentient gate seethed and rethought.
The smaller portals were useless as a tractor force. The rift in the Doomlands
alone wasn't even enough to break the gravitational pull of this stupid gas
This was all that King of Kings' fault.
Lilith looked up with irritation as a
small tremor passed through Hell.
She knew damn well it wasn't Kardia
Blackfeather's fault. But he was the most convenient one to take it out on at
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