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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Prophets and Matchmakers, Part IV

Character(s): Skitch, from Kris' nightmare
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title 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.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Rimbor Redux
Title 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.
And--" 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 help."

Character(s): Jack Paris and Friends
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: What Next?
Title 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 assassins?"
"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, dude."
"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," Asinus said.
"Rat Pack rules, I guess," Jack said. "Everyone's got to pair up sooner or later."
"Complaining, Jack?" Val asked.
"Never."

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ebreth (Who's flirting, you jerkface?)
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title 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 me."
"I'm not afraid of you!" Khyrisse wailed.
"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 league.
Khyrisse groaned in aggravation and smacked herself in the temple with the heel of her hand. AUGHgetoutofmyHEADdamnyou!!! Ebreth 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."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Rimbor Redux
Title 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?"
"Eric Tremontagne."
"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 got married?"
"Fifteen."
"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.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title 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 at all...
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.

Character(s): The Rat Groupies
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title of Post: Confrontations of One Kind and Another

"Um, Ebreth?"
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 Ebreth?"
"What?" Khyrisse looked in astonishment at the mathematician. She'd just been thinking nice things about Ebreth!
"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.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Alphred
Author: Jeff Hersh and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title 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 everyone else?!"
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 obviously impatient.
"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 of Jack.
"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.

Character(s): Alphred and the rest of the rat groupies
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings and all that rot
Title 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 surprising charisma.
"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 Ebreth.
"Alphred."
"What?"
"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.

Character(s): Nur'ur, the Living Number
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Onwards to Showdown
Title 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 Khyrisse.
He was missing the forest for the trees, as it were.
Tharrfest.
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 group.
"It's a topological ana-something of the wharf district in Rumi," Vas almost quoted correctly. "Right?"
"That's what I thought... but Kevin was right!"
"Kevin the bartender?" Khyrisse asked.
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!"

Character(s): Janus
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Onward to Showdown
Title 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.

Character(s): Khyrisse, fallen divinity
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (feverish, dammit)
Storyline: Rat Kings: Onwards to Showdown
Title 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.

 
Character(s): Ebreth and Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: En Route To Tharrfest
Title of Post: Wonder Woman And The Invisible Jet

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.
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."

Character(s): KoK
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title 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 problem?"
"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 favor."
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 good intentions?"
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.

Character(s): Xyrhyix
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings and Mind Games
Title 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 Vision commanded.

Character(s): Beliath, Greymalkin, Endicott and other dead folks
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Dead College meets the Rat Kings
Title 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 into Greymalkin.
"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 interesting.

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