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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 IV

Character(s): Khyrisse, stuck in an Escher print
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: You're a Blockhead, Charlie Brown!!

Khyrisse circled something on the paper. It was the same incomprehensible equation buried in the spell correction for her Carriage. "Jack, I'm just going to factor this thing into all of my spells that involve spatial warping of any kind. I imagine that'll save me a lot of time," she sighed. "All right, everybody out."
Khyrisse popped out into the ruins, faced the portal and made a twisting, sweeping gesture across it. "Valende? If you and Jack would do the honors?"
Valende took Jack's arm and went back through the shimmering Portal. After a few moments, she stepped back out, smiling. "Much better. Jack says he doesn't even have a headache anymore. All set."
"The jacuzzi better still be there," Khyrisse murmured with a sigh, as everyone piled back through the door. "Because I'm gonna need to spend the next five hours in it."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Hotel Khyrisse
Title of Post: Ebreth Makes A Pass

"How big is the jacuzzi?" Ebreth wanted to know.
Khyrisse's stoneskin kept her from blushing too much. "I have some, uh, private business to attend to, Ebreth. I mean I have some important calls to make. And things."
"Damn," said Ebreth, and grinned at her.
"Really," she said.
"Well, if you'd like some company when you're done." He made an easy shrug. There was something inexplicably graceful about his shoulders. "I do still owe you a massage. If you're brave enough to collect. Khyrisse."
"What?" she said.
"Promise me, no matter how the calls turn out, you'll get some sleep tonight."
Khyrisse sighed.

Character(s): Luthien and Khyrisse
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: A Trouble To My Dreams

Luthien sat on his horse, glaring at Norna. He knew she didn't care if he hated her or not, nor did she feel any particular discomfort from his stare. He just liked glaring, and she was the best target around. After a while, the group stopped for camp, and Luthien got settled in to study. At least, he tried to.
"Get off your ass and make yourself useful, necromancer!" Norna bellowed at him. "I know you can cook, so get to it. I don't like waiting for dinner."
Luthien glared briefly at her, then turned his attention to the firepit that Berryn and Hronmir had just finished digging. He summoned his will, and within seconds, there was a healthy bonfire blazing. He looked back up at her, and said, "When Flicker comes back with the food, I'll cook it. And I'll even leave out the poison." He then went back to his book, ignoring her snippy reply.
He didn't get far before another interruption broke his line of thought. This time it was Khyrisse, via sending spell.
Returning to Rimbor City to look for clues, concerns undead creature. Too much to explain by sending. May I use Dream? When will you sleep?
Luthien thought for a moment, then replied. Give me about three hours. I have a few questions for you, so be prepared with some answers.
Realizing he wasn't going to get to study before he ate, he returned his spellbook to its amulet form, and began to get out his cooking gear. He had hoped to put off sleep as long as he possibly could tonight, but it looked like now he had no choice.

***
Luthien opened his eyes to the sound of screams. The room was rocking back and forth, and the smell of salt water reminded him of where he was. His boat was three days out of Lianth, on its way to Annwych. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he moved forward, fumbling in the dark for his shirt and his spear. He found his spear (or did it come to his hand? he couldn't tell) and crept from his stateroom.
His room opened onto the bloody deck, where he saw the bodies of sailors piled up like spare bolts of canvas. The deck was manned now by grotesque, evil-looking men, dripping with blood and covered with grisly souvenirs of the fight. Luthien raised his spear to fight, but it was struck down immediately from over his head. Luthien whirled to face his opponent, only to find himself looking into the ebon face of Ebreth Tor, the Slaver King.
Khyrisse suddenly appeared on deck, and took a startled step backwards as she noted where she was. A ghostly pair of wings flashed and fluttered behind her.
"Grendel," she whispered. Her face turned towards Luthien and paled to an impossible shade of white as she noted his ...companion. "Luthien." It was barely a whisper. She cleared her throat and started again. "Luthien. You're--"
The young figure turned to face her. "I heard you the first time." Khyrisse took another involuntary step back at his response. This dream contact was becoming more disturbing than she had expected. It looks so real.
He spoke again. "Well, this is your contact. What news do you have for me, before I ask you my questions?" It took her a moment to get used to Luthien speaking in a child's voice; in fact, he sounded a bit like Gordon. That bothered her more.
"There's a unique undead creature harassing my group," she said, after a moment. She tried not to look at Tor, but Luthien-- gods, he can't be more than twelve-- was standing right next to him. Possibly on purpose. "It seems to once have been Laran Raimonde, but an imprisonment spell didn't work properly when I used that name. It marks people with a sigil, invisible to normal sight, that looks like this." She held up her left hand for Luthien to see. The sigil glowed an angry whitish-blue from her palm. The stone of her ring flashed an equally angry red. "It causes fear and paralysis in anyone within striking distance. It has a mist-form, something like a vampire's; and it can teleport. Can you tell me anything?"
Luthien thought for a moment, then looked up at her with a boyish grin. "Yes, actually, I can. The creature who was once Laran Raimonde is now a lichling." Khyrisse got a worried look on her face, not liking the sound of that. "A lichling is a lesser undead creature that is bound to a mage or a higher form of undead, usually a lich. It has several magical powers, including fear and paralysis, and according to the sources I've read, it can cross dimensional barriers to simulate teleportation. The sigil thing is unique to this particular entity, but I think I know why."
"The sigil can cause pain. What looks like a crippling amount of it, but I'd have to ask. Wait a minute, though-- I thought all the Lich Lords were banished or dead or imprisoned or something. It's not one of them using this critter, is it?" Khyrisse looked actively horrified by the notion. Most people would.
Luthien shook his head. "No, I don't think it's one of the Lich Lords. The M.O. actually points to someone a lot more familiar. I think the person controlling Laran Raimonde is Odn."
Khyrisse blinked twice. "Odn? That son-of-a-bitch? I thought we got rid of his sorry ass..."
"Unfortunately, we didn't. He has been alive and well, and running the Dalencian Wizard's Guild. At least, he was up until two years ago. He dropped out of sight then, and none of us in SPECTRAL could find him. If you remember, a lot of his magic had to do with sigils, runes, and symbols. He was actually quite an innovator in that realm, almost a specialist." Luthien set his jaw, staring out over the water. "I never did get the chance to punish him for Merwyn..."
Khyrisse started in surprise. "Luthien, is it possible that he has a glyph to dispel magic? I don't know where he is now, but I might know where he was."
Luthien shrugged his young shoulders. "Could be. I don't enough about glyphs and runes to say that he couldn't have one. For all I know, he has a glyph to summon a young prostitute."
"I think he was underneath the Rimbor City Arena. Ummm, two days ago. No, mabye three." Khyrisse looked over to the frozen figure of Ebreth Tor, then turned back to Luthien with a grim smile. "It's a crater now."
"Hmm. A fitting place for him. I guess it's too much to expect that he was still there when the whole place went down."
"No, I don't think he was still there. In fact, I think he was the one who made it collapse." Khyrisse looked suddenly excited. "That's it! That's what Jack is looking for. That's what we missed!"
"Glad I could be of service. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to know what the hell you are doing traveling with Ebreth Tor?!?!" Luthien finally let his anger show on his face, and Khyrisse gulped as she tried to figure out how to answer him.
"It's not the same Ebreth Tor," she said faintly. She waved at the man standing next to Luthien. "I didn't know, Luthien. I'm sorry."
He took a deep breath before continuing. "I don't know what sort of man you are dealing with now, but the Ebreth Tor I remember slaughtered an entire ship's crew and sold five passengers to the slave market on Rimbor City. To my knowledge, I am the only one of them still alive." He looked her square in the eye. "I hope to Arawn that he's a different man. For your sake, and for Skitch's."
Khyrisse put her hands on her hips and stared at the bloody deck at her feet for a moment. Then she walked over to Luthien's side and looked the slaver in the face. Physically, it was the same man, down to the last detail. She'd expected that, though. And his expression...
The expression was the same one she'd seen on Ebreth's face, for a few brief moments, in the hotel in Rimbor. The slaver, frozen in Luthien's dream, had an expression of cold and impatient contempt, his hand pinning the end of Luthien's spear against the wall of the cabin.
Khyrisse made a strange noise, sounding like someone had just stabbed her. Her hand clutched at her stomach as if someone had, the other hand rising to cover her mouth as she stared at Luthien's version of Ebreth Tor. She closed her eyes and leaned against the wall for a moment.
Luthien moved forward, but didn't touch her. Instead, he said quietly, "I'm sorry, Khyrisse, but that's what I remember. I've had nightmares about him for 15 years. I couldn't keep it bottled inside anymore, not after I saw him in your group. If he truly is a different man, on the inside, then so much the better for all of us."
"Valende said that he's not evil," Khyrisse said, pushing herself upright slowly. "But there are ways and ways to fool someone, even about that. I'll find out what's going on. I've left it too long as it is. I'll find out," she promised Luthien quietly. "And if he is the same Ebreth Tor..." She looked at the dream-slaver's face steadily, hollow-eyed. "...I'll kill him."
Luthien started to say something else, but he saw Khyrisse's dream-form start to fade and disappear. Khyrisse felt it as well, and she turned quickly to her friend with one last statement. "Malcar is loose in Edimon. Be careful! I'll try again tomorr..." She disappeared suddenly, leaving Luthien alone on the deck with a crew of now-moving pirates and their leader. He gritted his teeth, and decided that this time, the dream would end differently.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Valende, and Skitch
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: The Thane of Fife Had a Wife

Khyrisse tossed violently in her dreams, and Valende began to wonder about the advisability of letting her sleep after the spell was done. Despite her undeniable exhaustion, sleeping did not seem to be doing her mistress much good at all.
Khyrisse's hands clutched at her left shoulder, and she rolled over to the far side of the bed. She was mumbling something that her bodyguard, try as she might, couldn't make out. Is that Elven? It can't be... Valende thought. She picked up the candle from the table and approached the bed with it. I think I'd best wake her, at this rate...
The light fell on Khyrisse's face, and her eyes flew open. They stared for a single instant at the candle flame in her bodyguard's hand, obviously still dreaming. "D'tiet!" Khyrisse shouted the word at the top of her lungs, a
half-angry, half-plaintive note in her voice. She recoiled violently, arms shielding her head.
Valende slammed the candlestick onto the bedside table as Khyrisse fell over the far side of the bed. She raced around it and found Khyrisse lying on her side, awake now, staring at her hands. Valende was suddenly reminded of the expression on her brother's face, after Duke St. Augustine had used his body to kill Ariath.
"Are you all right? Milady? Khyrisse?"
I'll find out. And if he is the same Ebreth Tor... I'll kill him.
Khyrisse shuddered once, then swallowed hard. "No." Her voice was flat, and she didn't look up. "I take it someone decided that they should let me sleep?"
"Vas and I did," Valende said hesitantly. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," Khyrisse sighed, pushing herself off the floor. "Ow. How long was I out?"
"Not long. Four hours, spell included; perhaps five. It's close to dinner time."
"Good. I spoke to Luthien. We now have a lot of very useful information."
She briefly outlined the information she and Luthien had pieced together about Odn and Laran. "I'd like you to tell Jack all of this for me," Khyrisse said, opening her door.
"Certainly, but why not do so yourself?" Valende asked, a little puzzled.
"I have to go talk to Ebreth. I have to ask him to explain something for me. In private. Keep Skitch with you until I'm done, all right?"

***
"Skitch," Valende said, once she found him. He was making a fort out of stacks of books in the library.
"Uh-huh?" he replied, balancing a short pile atop two other stacks, forming a narrow archway.
"Do you know what 'D'tiet!' means?"
"Sure. It's Cynystran... it means 'stop', or 'don't', or something like that. I heard it a lot," Skitch added, flashing her a mildly sheepish grin.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: On Trying Flicker's Patience

Luthien was just about to shocking grasp the fuck out of Tor when Norn shook him awake. "Get up, death mage. We have a long journey ahead of us."
Luthien really considered using it on her instead, but reluctantly decided it wouldn't be productive. "All right," he said.
Berryn was washing up the dinner dishes. "Hurry up," she told him. "I serve," he said.
"Any luck?" said Flicker, quietly.
"I don't know. I got her attention, at least."
"That's better than I did." Flicker sighed. "I hope she's right."
"Are you two talking to each other again?"
Flicker didn't even answer that. "Why do you want to destroy the Myriad, Norn? Won't that disrupt--"
"You ask too many questions, Messala," she interrupted him. "Just do as I tell you."
Flicker stood up. "Norn," he said, "I am losing my patience with you."
"Is that supposed to be a threat?"
"No," he said. "It's an insult. I once spent four days in a fifteen-by-fifteen foot room with Khyrisse, Tila, Shilree, and Signet the Significant."

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

Ebreth and Vas were laughing about something in the newly three-dimensional library when she came in. Their expressions both changed when they saw her face. "Milady," said Vas, uneasily. "Are you all right?"
"Just a bad dream," she said, lightly. "May I speak to Ebreth alone, please?" Vas got up. "Really alone?"
Vas looked embarrassed. "That was, uh, St. Augustine," he protested, and left. Khyrisse listened to his footsteps recede down the hall. Ebreth closed the door. He had a look of concern on his face and was probably trying to ensure the privacy she had just asked for, but her heart skipped a beat anyway. Ebreth Tor looked at her, looked at his hand on the doorknob, slowly took it off, went back several paces until he was farther from the door than she was and sat. "Why are you afraid of me?" he said, plainly and with a certain amount of pain. "If I really just wanted, if I was going to force myself on you, wouldn't I have done it already?"

Character(s): Jack Paris, Ariath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: More Secrets
Title of Post: Jack At The Door

Jack watched as Vas stomped annoyedly out of the library. Val put down the Queen she was about to capture Jack's Dragon with and went over to her brother.
"Is it happening?" she asked.
"Yes," Vas sighed. "And she's doing it without anyone in there to protect her."
"Is what happening?" Jack asked.
"The best we can do is to be ready," Val comforted her twin.
"Ready for what?" Jack asked.
"If I had been expecting it, I could at least have at least made sure I had some long distance spells."
"Expecting what?" Jack demanded.
"Khyrisse is finally confronting Ebreth," Val said gently.
"Why didn't she ask me?" Jack said, a little hurt. "I already had this conversation."
"And do you trust him?" Vas asked.
"No," Jack sighed. "But I don't hate him any more. He's got a heavy weight he's trying to deal with."

Inside the library, Ariath watched from her hiding place. She was damned if she was going to let Khyrisse fall to Ebreth Tor.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everyone Tell Your Secrets
Title of Post: Nobody's On Nobody's Side

"Why are you afraid of me?" Ebreth said, plainly and with a certain amount of pain. "If I really just wanted, if I was going to force myself on you, wouldn't I have done it already?"
Khyrisse sighed and sat down across from him. Ebreth noticed, without really wanting to, that she'd picked a chair close to him... but far enough away to defend herself, if she had to. And she was still closer to the door than he was.
Khyrisse blinked for a moment, looking at him. She had so many spells up that affected her vision, that she was suddenly hit with deja vu; and for a moment, looked for the underlying pattern of the room, the ongoing weaving of the inhabitants on the tapestry of their surroundings and history. Her mind jittered and spun for a moment, trying to do something only a deity could manage. The portion of her brain that was ruthless and cynical and truly paranoid-- the part that believed no one's story; not Ariath's, not Ebreth's, not Vas', not Luthien's... and for that matter, had never believed or trusted Pieret-- stomped angrily on this and forced the rest of her brain to pay attention. The various spells told her nothing she didn't already know and/or hadn't already been told. Not yet. Khyrisse smiled a little, sadly. "No, I'm not afraid of you because of that," she told Ebreth quietly.
"But you are afraid of me," he said, very low.
"Somewhat." Khyrisse looked briefly at her hands, then back up at him, facing the pain she saw in his face squarely. If she didn't look at him, she'd never know for sure. She still might never know for sure, no matter what she did. "I'm a fairly intelligent woman, and I've been piecing together the things I know about you, but they don't make a clear picture-- and now I need one. I wouldn't ask you this if I could avoid it, Ebreth," she added, very gently. "If some of my theories are actually true, explaining what happened will be extremely unpleasant for you-- but other of my theories force me to ask. I know that you have an intimate connection of some kind to the original Ebreth Tor-- can you explain that for me?"
Khyrisse waited, eyes fixed on his face, trying to tell him with her expression that she wasn't going to be satisfied with an evasion, without being harsh about it. She was ready for just about anything. At least she hoped so.
Let's see how much I really HAVE learned in twenty years, shall we?

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