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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Like A Bat Out Of Hell, Part I

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, gambling man
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Whim Of The Cards
Title 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 that mean?"
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 person."
"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 CARD GAME?"
"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 day.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets
Title 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.
"He 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 asked.
"Only if you're going to answer it."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, refugee
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title 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.

Character(s): Tarrin
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title 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 be me."
"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.


Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, and Tarrin
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Secret of R.U.M.I.
Title 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 bat.
"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 hands.
"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
good-natured embarrassment and walked back to join Valende.


Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets Finale
Title 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.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Rifts

"The King of Kings must diiiiiiiiie!"
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 is."

 
Character(s): The Beast and the Collector
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: Bad Morning to You, Bad Morning to You...

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.
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
than 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 shadows.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, connoisseur
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title 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 riiiiiiiiift!"
"Yes, we're going to the rift, you stupid demon horse. It's waiting till I finish my coffee, and that's just that."
Fred looked hurt. "Wiiiiiiilbur. He's being meeeeeeeeean to me."
"Don't pick on the horse," said Skitch.

***
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 Khyrisse.
Tarrin knew what he must do.

Character(s): Flicker, Tarrin, Skitch, Shalak, everyone
Author: Laura, fulfilling Jeff's geas
Storyline: All of 'em
Title of Post: Laying Blame

"Wow," said Luthien. "This didn't use to be here, did it?"
"No," said Flicker.
"Transdimensional gate?"
"I assume. It looks kind of like the one in the Doomlands."
"Is that them over there?" demanded Norna.
"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 was still.
"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 giant.
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 the moment.

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