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The Rat King Archives
Skitch, from Kris' nightmare
Prophets and Matchmakers, Part IV
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
of Post: Just Enough Religion
Skitch sat crosslegged on the ground
between the Carriage and the Pyramid, keeping his eye on the Rat Pack. The
expression he wore was too old for his face, a shuttered and secretive glimmer
of violent anger. There was a patch of bare
earth in front of him, a flat, compacted depression the size of a small fist in
the center of it. Every now and then, he could just barely hear Khyrisse crying
in the Carriage. Khyrisse never cries, not like that, not even when she's
hurt. On such occasions he slammed his
fist furiously into the ground, heedless of the dirt it was puffing onto his
clothes, wishing it were that stupid hologram.
Someday this is going to be him. I swear.
Rat Kings: Rimbor Redux
of Post: Listening To Jack
"Khyrisse?" Ebreth tried the
door of the carriage. He could hear her crying in there. Ebreth just didn't get
it. She'd been fine until she kissed Jack. The door was locked; Ebreth took out
his credit card, and it popped open about five minutes later. He climbed in.
"Khyrisse, what's wrong?"
She made a little shriek and whirled
against the wall of the carriage, her heart just about
pounding out of her eyes. That did it. Jack
had to be right. "Khyrisse," he said, "you are buttloads more powerful
than I am. You have about a million protective spells on. You can cast things
that could blow me away. You have a magic weapon.
He caught her wrist and pulled at it; her reflexive pull back extended his arm.
"--and I think I'm the only one who's figured this out, but you're
stronger than I am. So come on, Khyrisse. What are you really scared of?"
He hesitated, and sat next to her, still holding her wrist. "Maybe I could
Jack Paris and Friends
Rat Kings: What Next?
of Post: While They Flirt...
"Wait a minute," Jack said.
"Let me see if I got this straight... you all were a bunch of freelance
assassins? Teenage freelance assassins?"
"We're, like, an offshoot of the
Karzal assassin sect, y'know?" Janice said. "Like, we're the Rat
Fist, which is, like, um, the new generation."
"You were trainee teenage freelance
"Yeah, but we've, y'know, got the
memories of all the previous Rat Fist sect assassins."
"You're brainwashed trainee teenage
freelance assassins?" Jack asked incredulously.
"High on weed!" Janice added.
"Doped-up, brainwashed, trainee
teenage freelance assassins."
"You got it, daddy-o!"
"Oy," Asinus sighed.
"And if you're, like, going to borrow
the totem that skull-head left with us, I'm, like, gonna need to stay with you
to, like, guard it."
"If we take it, doesn't that mean you
didn't guard it well?" Jack asked.
"Whoa, don't be so, like, semantic,
"Who am I to complain," Jack
said. "Now I just need the rat to tell us where we have to take this to
deal with the King of the Kings."
The Rat looked up momentarily.
"He's sooooo cute!" Janice said,
rubbing under the Rat's chin.
"I think he's got a girlfriend,"
"Rat Pack rules, I guess," Jack
said. "Everyone's got to pair up sooner or later."
"Complaining, Jack?" Val asked.
Khyrisse and Ebreth (Who's flirting, you jerkface?)
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
of Post: A Nightmare From Which I Am Trying To Awake
Khyrisse scrubbed at her face with her
free hand and hiccuped over the last of her sobs. Stupidly, she picked the
least pertinent of his statements to reply to. "It's a spell, I'm not
really that strong," she said jerkily, gasping a little still.
"Seems to work pretty well despite
that," Ebreth observed. "You knocked that guy into next week. You'd
be hell in a bar fight. But that's not the point, is it? You're still afraid of
"I'm not afraid of you!"
"Well, what are you afraid of,
then?" he asked, very gently. "You just about jump out of your skin,
every time I come near you. What's the matter?"
--still fawning after men way out of your
Khyrisse groaned in aggravation and
smacked herself in the temple with the heel of her hand.
quickly grabbed her other wrist and prevented Khyrisse from hitting herself
again. Khyrisse looked up at him miserably, both wrists captured. "Ebreth,
you won't understand," she whispered around the stinging lump in her
throat. "I can't even understand this. You don't know the first thing
about me, do you know that? I know more about your past than you do about mine...
and I seem to drag mine around everywhere, too."
Rat Kings: Rimbor Redux
of Post: Moving On
"Then tell me," he said.
"Believe me, I won't care. I am in no position to be getting uptight about
people's pasts." He was starting to think she might have been a
prostitute, or something, but he certainly wasn't going to ask. "I stand
in the doorway and you practically have a heart attack, I say one little thing
and you get all ice princess on my ass. Now you're having a nervous breakdown.
What is going on here? What are you scared of?"
"My ex-husband," she said, very
muffled. She had no idea why, and it was only part of the story, but it was
true, and she hated it.
"Why? I bet you could kick his butt,
too." Khyrisse laughed aloud, bitterly. "Why not? Who is he?"
"Of Cynystra?" Ebreth moved his
hand dismissively. Khyrisse stared; she didn't think she'd ever seen anyone
make that gesture about Eric before. "He's no more of a bad-ass than
Lucas, and this is the second time you've hosed him. How old were you when you
"Fifteen!" It was obviously even
younger than Ebreth had been expecting. "Well listen, you're not fifteen
any more. And big men with loud voices just aren't that much of a threat to you
now. So just put that part behind you. There's nothing you can do about that
now. Put that behind you and just move on. That's what I do, and it--works for
me." He touched her face, but it was clearly really stressing her out, so
he took his hand back and moved away from her slowly. "Look," he
said, "whatever I did to hit a nerve, I'm sorry. I'm not your ex-husband.
I'm just doing the best I can. You
just, if you need anything, you just tell me. Okay?" He closed the
carriage door behind him, exhaling.
Jack inspected the rat's matrices
carefully. They seemed to be indicating the Seven Princedoms of Dalencia.
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
of Post: A Fool at Forty is a Fool Indeed
Well, that went beautifully, Khyri, she
told herself acidly. Do you think you can alienate Ebreth any further today?
Embarrass Jack some more? Give your bodyguards some more bruises? Mabye you should
see if you can aggravate everybody in the group.
Khyrisse smacked her forehead into the
seat one last time (which of course did nothing, the cushion softening the
blow, but at least it made her feel better). She levered herself to her feet
and determinedly tidied herself up, trying to get rid of the lingering
shakiness from crying so hard. Let's see if I can salvage something from the
day. For somebody who worships Grendel, I'm not being very bloody focused today
With a sigh, Khyrisse squared her
shoulders and opened the door of the Carriage.
Big men with loud voices.
Khyrisse suddenly giggled over the idea of
Ebreth calling Eric this, and startled the hell out of herself.
That may be the first time in twenty years
that I've laughed at Eric, she thought, grinning. Thank you, Ebreth.
The Rat Groupies
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
of Post: Confrontations of One Kind and Another
Ebreth sighed and turned around. Skitch
was standing there, kicking at the ground in an embarrassed fashion.
"Yeah?" The kid's clothes were dusty, oddly enough. Skitch didn't
mind dirt much per se, but he was pretty fussy about his clothes.
"Thanks. I dunno what you said, but
she's lots better, and-- and anyway, thanks." Skitch flushed a little and
dashed back to the Carriage, leaving a very confused Ebreth behind him.
"Hey, Khyrisse?" said Jack,
intercepting her as she wandered away from the Carriage. Her eyes looked all
puffy for some reason. "Why don't you ever say anything nice to
"What?" Khyrisse looked in
astonishment at the mathematician. She'd just been thinking nice things about
"Well, I mean, he was asking me about
it, and we could only remember one time, and it was way back in Ru--" Jack
stumbled over it as he saw Khyrisse's face. "I mean, uh, uh... Never mind.
I'm going to--go over here now."
Jack scurried back to Valende and his
uncle, leaving a very confused Khyrisse behind him.
Khyrisse and Alphred
Jeff Hersh and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
of Post: Spirit Maiden and Jungle Boy
The world was dark, like the time Alphred
was a prisoner of the Fungus Men. The darkness wasn't a bad dark. It was more
of a comfortable one. Still, he couldn't remain here. He had to recover the rat
without a tail and ask it for advice. The jungle depended on it.
Alphred tried to walk, but it was useless.
It wasn't that he was paralyzed, but the entire world was the same. Dark. Very
dark. Even so, he kept walking. That is when he saw the light, a small glimmer
ahead of him. He started to run. The light got closer much to quickly. Suddenly
he was overwhelmed in a world of light. Then everything came into focus. He was
on top of some platform. Alphred didn't like this.
Khyrisse became aware of the stirring of
the white haired stranger on top of the coach. She rushed over and leaped up
onto the driver's board, leaning over to glare furiously at poor bewildered
Alphred. She shook the oyster totem in his face.
"What the hell do you think you were
doing?" she shouted at him. "How dare you send a whole room full of
people into a frenzy, just so you don't have to push through a crowd like
Alphred looked at Khyrisse with utter
noncomprehension. He understood that he must have upset this screaming elf, but
for the life of him, he could not figure out what she was talking about.
"Have I done you wrong, spirit
maiden?" he asked, holding his right temple, which still ached.
Khyrisse blinked in astonishment.
"This!" she said, shaking the oyster totem under his nose. Alphred
reached out to take it and she whipped it out of his reach. "Oh no you
don't! This thing sent the entire place-- including me-- into a libidinous
frenzy just so you could get to the Rat. You could have pushed your way through
the crowd the hard way, like Jack and I did, but instead, you used this. I
am," she finished, with a deep breath, trying to control herself, "very
angry, unbelievably humiliated, and I would like an explanation."
Alphred opened his mouth to speak, then he
closed it. He didn't have a clue on how to explain the correctness of his
actions. How was he supposed to communicate the use of the totems that formed
all his actions, to someone who had never seen the Great Spirits of the
Ancestors? He didn't know where to start.
"Well???" Khyrisse said, growing
"Ummm, forgive me; I am trying to
find the right words, spirit maiden. I am a shaman warrior of the Great Spirits
of the Black River. By the command of Var'tooth himself, I am unable to take
any action unless I invoke one the sacred totems. The one you hold is the totem
of the blue river oyster. It increases people's desires so that they do not see
anything but what they desire. It was either that or the totem of the fire
salamanders from the mouth of the belching mountain G'kar'li."
Khyrisse tried to picture what would have
happened in this case, and didn't like any of the alternatives. She sighed in
aggravation and gave up. This was worse than trying to get an explanation out
"All right. Suppose you come down and
tell us what you wanted with the Rat? The Rat is with us, and you can't have
him unless he wants to go with you. He's leading us on a quest of a sort."
Khyrisse hopped down from the Carriage and
led Alphred over to the others, shaking her head.
Alphred and the rest of the rat groupies
Rat Kings and all that rot
of Post: Campfire tales
"So, it looks like Mr. Aphrodisiac
has finally woken up," said Asinus.
The rest of the Rat Pack ignored him.
Alphred, who was still a bit dazed, sat
across from Jack and the Rat.
"I have traveled from the jungles of
the Salagia on a matter of great importance," said Alphred, with a
"Which is?" asked Ebreth.
"The great totems of my ancestors
have told me that a great strife is coming to the land. I have been instructed
to seek three persons who can tell me how to heal this pestilence."
Alphred paused then continued.
"The rat without a tail is said to
understand," he said pointing to the rodent on Jack's shoulder. "I am
certain that he is the rodent I seek. After all it is obviously the servant of
Nur'ur, the god who walks the land, the living number."
Jack squirmed at being called a god.
"The second I seek is the sage from
the eastern forbidden lands. Who this person is I do not know, but I am sure to
find him. The last person I am to find is she who has fallen from the divine.
The woman who lives between the ground and the sky."
Khyrisse blanched at Alphred's
description. She really hoped she wasn't this third person. She had enough to
worry about right now.
"So let me get this straight,"
said Vas. "You have traveled thousands of miles to find a rat, a man from
the east and a woman who was once divine?"
"Yes, the great spirits of my
ancestors who live in the ruins surrounding the Great Obelisk of Tiki-too told
me as much."
"One question, Tarzan," said
"I am Alphred, not this Ta'ar Zhan. I
am lord of the Jungles of Salagia."
"Right. Whatever. What I want to know
is, what are you going to do once you find all three of these people?"
A grin of pure faith spread over Alphred's
face. "The spirits will guide me."
"Oh great," said Ebreth.
Nur'ur, the Living Number
Rat Kings: Onwards to Showdown
of Post: The Answer Was There The Whole Time
Jack was going over the Rat's messages.
The Seven Princedoms were a big place, and Alph didn't seem to have any
suggestions. He hoped that people assumed that "Nur'ur the Living
Number" was a figurative description. Jack looked at the first message,
the Tharrfest brochure that had brought them to Rumi. The Rumi docks were
perfectly clear. No help there. The second message, the Rat's extrapolations on
the Johhn Calculation that had sent them to Rimbor made more sense now. Jack
kicked himself for not noticing the pyramidal sequences inherent in the Rimbor
matrices. Still, it didn't indicate anything about a next step.
The final thing the rat had done was make
a nest out of the two. It was definitely a topological indication of something,
but all it seemed to be was a factorial of the Johhn Calculation that pointed
back to the Tharrfest brochure.
Then it hit Jack harder than a pissed-off
He was missing the forest for the trees,
as it were.
Two days from now, in Tharr, central of
all the Seven Princedoms. The Rat didn't need to mathematically indicate
something that was on a flarking picture in the middle of his nest.
"I've got it," Jack muttered.
"I've got the Rat's message."
"Anything to get us moving
again," Ebreth sighed, avoiding Khyrisse's gaze.
"What's this?" he asked the
"It's a topological ana-something of
the wharf district in Rumi," Vas almost quoted correctly.
"That's what I thought... but Kevin
"Kevin the bartender?" Khyrisse
Jack replayed Kevin's voice. "I won't
even ask how you can recognize a map of the wharf district of Rumi. It looks
like a chewed up Tharrfest brochure to me."
"No duh," Ariath said.
"Tharr is the keystone of the Seven
Princedoms," Khyrisse said, coming to life. "The Rat indicated the
Princedoms... you think Tharrfest?"
"Boy, that's really convenient,"
Ebreth muttered. "Almost like someone knew what they were doing."
"Well, I'm ready to kick Odn's butt
if you are," Khyrisse said. "All aboard!"
Rat Kings: Onward to Showdown
of Post: Janus Waits
Janus appeared behind an ale booth at
Tharrfest. His work was almost done. Two more visits, and his debt would be
repaid. And one of them would take place here, later today, when the Rat Pack
arrived at Tharrfest. "Man, I remember how I always hated
prophecies," Janus sighed in his weird sepulchral voice.
The Master of the Five Elements showed no
expression on his featureless black face, but anticipation battled with worry
in his heart. He put his hand to the unfamiliar sword at his side. He wished he
had his own blade here, but that wasn't possible right now. At least that cute
elf would be there, he thought.
Khyrisse, fallen divinity
Kristin L.K. Andersen (feverish, dammit)
Rat Kings: Onwards to Showdown
of Post: Planning Ahead-- More or Less
Khyrisse stopped dead on the driver's step
with a sudden exclamation. She hopped off again and went to the phantom team,
and removed all the silver bells from the harness. "How come?" Skitch
said curiously from the roof. "Well,
if Odn is in Tharr already, he probably knows we're coming," she said in a
practical tone, "but I'd rather not give him any advance warning that I
don't have to. I have a nasty feeling that we're going to need all the
advantages we can get. I'm going to make the Carriage invisible." She cast
an area-effect invisibility on one of the leaders of the team. The spectral
steeds vanished. Khyrisse climbed back onto the Carriage roof and repeated the
process on the vehicle itself. The Carriage and passengers vanished as well.
"Now if we can just stay quiet once we get there, we can take a look
around and find out a few things before we announce our presence," she
called, loudly enough so those inside could hear as well, and settled herself
on the roof. Vas took off and sent them whizzing through the air to the
northeast at a frightening speed.
Khyrisse looked down into the ocean
between Rimbor and Diaria, with nothing to block her view, not even her own
body. She had never been afraid of heights, but even she gulped a little.
"Anyone who's prone to air or motion sickness should probably take a
nap," she said, a little belatedly.
Ebreth watched the familiar coastlines
streak by beneath him dispassionately. One nice thing about doing hard time in
Hell was that you got to have a very keen awareness of all the limits of your
body, and Ebreth Tor was not the least bit prone to motion sickness.
Ebreth and Skitch
Rat Kings: En Route To Tharrfest
of Post: Wonder Woman And The Invisible Jet
Meanwhile, in the cabin, Skitch was
thinking about the "magic" Jack. "Are you a demon, Jack?"
he suddenly asked.
Jack sputtered. "WHAT?"
"Of course he's not a demon,"
said Val, indignantly.
"Hey, there are a lot of dorks in the
Abyss," came Fred's voice. "It's not that dumb a question."
of Post: War! Huh! What is it good for?
The King of Kings, aka Odn, was very
happy. Even with the interference of the Dead College, and some of his subjects
disappearing, his plans were finally coming together. The level of necromantic
energy in the Seven Princedoms was starting to build. Due to his and the
Collector's influence, each of the Princedoms was at war with another. A few
more days of the slaughter, and he would have enough energy to cast the final
spell. The spell that would place him among the gods.
Odn gazed into his crystal ball.
Currently, there was a battle between the forces of Margonal and Oranda. It was
a fairly even battle, but it seemed that Oranda was winning. It didn't matter
who won. All that mattered was the slaughter.
A hissing sound from behind him
interrupted his thoughts.
"Yes, Laran. What is the
"The piecesss are homing in on usss.
It is too soon."
"What?! Damn!" Odn cursed.
"I want them here, but not yet. Looks like it is time to call in another
The King of Kings walked over to the wall
and reached through an illusionary barrier. He pulled out a small jade charm
and a ivory cube.
"Laran? Do you think our friends have
The Collector looked confused.
Odn started to laugh. The laugh showed he
had lost all sanity. "After all, you know what they say about the road
paved with good intentions?"
The Collector understood and grinned.
Rat Kings and Mind Games
of Post: Crunchings and Munchings
Xyrhyix kept to the shadows. He had
managed to make it half way across Peteser on his way towards Tharr. There had
been plenty of food along the way. It seemed there was some sort of war going
on. That suited Xyrhyix just fine. More for him to eat. The shapeless black
thing with thousands of eyes oozed from shadow to shadow. It could feel its
quarry far away somewhere in Tharr. It was calling to him like a lighthouse.
Xyrhyix moved faster. He had to get there at the proper time. So his master
Beliath, Greymalkin, Endicott and other dead folks
Dead College meets the Rat Kings
of Post: You can't trust anyone
Beliath walked rapidly through the
corridors of the Dead College, and he was not happy. It was one thing being
held in hell, but to be humiliated by the King of Kings was something else. The
King of Kings told him not to interfere. Well that was exactly what he was
going to do. He would teach that second-rate sorcerer not to mess with him.
Beliath turned the corner and ran right
"Greymalkin! Watch where you are
going, will you?" Beliath said, half distracted.
"That is the impostor,"
Greymalkin said to a group of the Dead College guards.
"What are you talking about?"
said Beliath, confused.
The guards swarmed over Beliath and
quickly subdued him.
"Take him to the holding chambers. We
will interrogate this impostor later."
"Now just a...."
Beliath's words were cut off by a blow to
the back of the head. He was then dragged away to the lower areas of the
College. As they left, Greymalkin stood still. A soft red glow oozed from his
back then was gone. He then slowly walked back to "his" office.
After they were all gone, Endicott, still
disguised as Iellan Tach, emerged from the shadows. Things were getting very
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