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Cat and Mouse, Part IV
Cat and mouse
of Post:: Pirates?
"Pirate!" yelled someone. Jack
seemed to shrink back a little. Flicker blinked a few times. Pirates? In Rumi?
Rumi was far too provincial to be a useful smuggling depot, and too large to be
attacked by raiders. Something was very strange here...
Khyrisse and Skitch
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat (Pirate?) Kings
of Post:: Rumi, Roofs, and Resemblances
Khyrisse shook her head, and stood on the
driver's step to wave a hand through the roof of the Carriage. It disappeared
as her hand passed through it, then reappeared again. "That's not supposed
Shouting came from the town square nearby,
something about pirates. Khyrisse looked at Flicker, surprised. Seeing that
Flicker was just as surprised as she was, she climbed up to stand on the
driver's board for a better look.
Khyrisse scanned the milling crowd in the
center of town. "I can't see what--"
broke off, blinked a few times, and nearly climbed onto the roof before she
remembered that it wasn't solid. Khyrisse craned her neck, trying to get a
better look at someone in the crowd.
Skitch, sitting on the ground next to the
cat, asked, "Whatcha looking at?"
"I just thought I saw somebody who
looked familiar, that's all." Khyrisse blinked again, sitting down on the
seat and shaking her head. She bent to get her pack, returning her attention to
her problem with the carriage. "I can't have factored the Leomund's Hut in
with the Haste, the whole thing would have reduced to zero!" she muttered,
scrabbling in her backpack for a stick of charcoal.
Jack Paris, "Ariath"
Rat Kings and Other Things
of Post:: Two Divided By Zero
"Um, here," Jack said, handing
Khyrisse a pocket slate and stylus. "I think your problem might come from
an alteration in your assumed passenger constant. By replacing that--"
Jack jotted an exceedingly complex-looking string of equations on the stylus in
Khyrisse's hands "--with a stable factorial to mass and energy, you
shouldn't have any more problems." The equations on the stylus made sense
from a spell use basis, but were completely nonsensical from a mathematical
Ariath's head shot up upon hearing
"Who?" she asked. "Do you, uh, have friends in
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings and Other Things
of Post:: Reading, Rat Kings, and Arithmetic
For Khyrisse, to whom magic WAS
mathematics, and vice-versa, this mysterious string of equations was a severe
puzzlement. She traced it lightly with her charcoal, absentmindedly pulling her
notes out of her backpack. "That looks a little like some of the Leomund's
Hut bits, after I multiplied them by the Tenser's Disc for the combined
mass/living unit capacity..." Khyrisse nibbled on the end of her pencil,
pushing her loose curls out of her face as she studied Jack's slate. "I'm
not sure what that will do when I change the weight distribution, though.
Keeping the geometric speed increase might be nice, too, but who knows what
would happen to the axles. And THIS bit," as she lightly underlined a
large section in parentheses, "I don't understand at all..."
Startled out of her brown study, briefly,
by the blonde girl's question, Khyri looked up and shrugged. "Oh. Friends
in Rumi? Not that I know of."
Cat and mouse
of Post:: Clarification
"I think she was asking who you saw
out there," Flicker said quietly.
Ariath, he noticed, had lost a little weight, and lost the ridiculous
inch and a half of black dye on the ends of her long honey-blond hair. Whatever
else proved to be the case, that was an improvement.
Jack Paris, "Ariath"
Rat Kings and Other Things
of Post:: Blast from the Past
Ariath huffed in annoyance and went back
to playing with Vas' hair. "So you know her?" she asked. "Is she
always this dismissive?"
Meanwhile Jack chewed on his lower lip.
"That's, uh, just a factorial that adjusts to different environmental
constants. You know, like if you drive through the Shadowlands or something,
where things are... different."
"So you can put the top down when
it's not raining."
Jack looked up at the stranger.
"I suppose so..." he trailed off,
happy to let the attention shift away from him.
"Nice to see you again,
Khyrisse," the stranger said.
"You?" Ariath said from inside
Jack blinked. He wondered what the big
deal was, but was sure someone would tell him before too long.
Cat and Mouse
of Post:: Mob Rule
Flicker barely noticed the newcomer
approach Khyrisse; his attention and his sharpened senses were on the town
square, where there was most certainly not a raid going on. Instead a mob had
gathered, shouting angrily for someone's blood. "Pirate," he heard
again. "Murderer! Child-killer!" It was a few moments before he could
filter out the clutter. "I'm telling you!" shouted the man
frantically. "That--it wasn't me!" Two guards pushed him back from
the crowd, none too gently, and Flicker was shocked to see that the crowd was
entirely right, for the man was Ebreth Tor, the master slaver. There was
absolutely no mistaking him. The problem was Tor had been dead for nine years.
Flicker supposed someone might have resurrected him, though he couldn't imagine
who. "Listen!" yelled Tor, or whoever it was. "That guy is dead.
I'm someone else. And I didn't do anything wrong!"
Strangely enough, Flicker found himself
increasingly inclined to believe him.
Vas (of the Manga-Do), Val, Skitch, and the Cat
Evan the Ferally Hungry
Pirates? In Rumi? The pirate's tropical!!
of Post:: Elves, Hairdressers, and Lynch Mobs, Oh My!
Vas leapt down from the top of the
carriage, a wild and exhilarated look in his eyes. "By the gods, that was
fantastic! I don't think I've ever flown that fast in my life!" He turned
immediately to Khyrisse, and exclaimed, "I insist that you consider me
first if you ever, EVER, need someone to drive this magnificent device. Whoof,
what a ride!"
Khyrisse looked down from the coach seat,
still wondering about the speed of the coach herself, and mumbled,
Having gotten his land legs again, he
turned to the ladies in the carriage, one of which was furiously playing with
his hair. Not that it didn't need it, after all that wind. She was cute, as
well, which was the primary reason he hadn't asked her to stop. He realized a
little belatedly that she had just asked him a question, too, and he quickly
answered it as he helped her to the ground.
"My apologies for seeming aloof, my
lovely one. It's just that, well, I've just had a religious experience and I'm
still a little overwhelmed. To answer your question, I'm not the leader here.
Actually, I work for the lady on top of the coach, as does my sister. I'm
flattered, though, that you mistook me for an officer of this impromptu band.
Personally, I find the whole concept of command to be dull and onerous. Keeps
you away from all the best parties, you know."
While her brother chattered, Val paid
attention to the target of his dialogue. She had learned recently to be more
wary of her traveling companions, and something about this young mage rubbed
her the wrong way. She would have to keep an eye on this one.
She made sure her things were secure and
easily grabbed, and moved to the carriage door to join the rest of the group.
She blinked, startled, as the boy from the inn scrambled from his seat on the
ground nearby and appeared at the door. Skitch looked up at her with a shy
smile, hand extended to assist her out of the coach.
She smiled sweetly at him when he leapt
up, and took his hand gently.
"Thank you, my gallant young man. Would that every man learned
their manners as quickly as you." As she touched the ground, she bent to
give him a big kiss, right on the forehead. As she rose from the kiss, she
heard the commotion nearby, and her adventurer's instincts kicked in.
"Quit fawning over your admirer, we
have work to do," she said, as she smacked her brother in the back of the
head. Passing to the front of the wagon, she drew her bow and nocked a blunted
arrow. She crouched down, ready to stun anyone who threatened.
"Ow!" Vas rubbed the back of his
head, then noticed the sound of the crowd. Muttering a quick spell, he peered
down the avenue as he drew his own bow. He hopped back up onto the carriage's
seat, bow ready, and was able to quickly identify the goings-on.
"It would appear that a lynching is
in progress. There are several dozen villagers with the usual assortment of
makeshift weapons, a few soldier-types, and three, no, make that four people
being pelted with fruit and rocks on a scaffold. Apparently, the four are
pirates of some sort; I guess the townspeople caught them napping." He
pondered the scene for a moment, then turned the group. "Considering the
large number of...misunderstandings over the past several weeks, don't you
think it might be a good idea to step in and try to straighten things out a
The cat was nowhere to be seen. Moments
later, the entire group (except, maybe, the cat) was surprised as a man
familiar to only Khyrisse and, apparently, Ariath, came up to them and made
Khyrisse and an Old... Friend
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: Regret and Remembrance
Khyrisse studied the underlined portion
intently. "That's, uh, just a
factorial that adjusts to different environmental constants. You know, like if
you drive through the Shadowlands or something, where things are...
different," Jack explained.
Her pulse tripped over itself at the
mention of the Shadowlands. This can compensate for different environmental
constants? she wondered dazedly, staring down at the equations on the slate.
Oh, what this might have meant for Trade... Why do I always learn things too
late for them to do me any good?
"So you can put the top down when
it's not raining," commented an eerily familiar voice.
"I suppose so..." Jack said, his
words trailing away into silence.
"It's nice to see you again,
Khyrisse," the strange voice then said.
Khyrisse finally, absentmindedly, placed
the man's accent. Her pulse stopped altogether. She lifted her head and stared
at the man standing in front of her, her eyes like two dark bruises in the
stark white skin of her face.
"Pieret...?" she murmured. The man grinned, looking hardly a
day older than when she'd seen him last, over fifteen years ago. White flecked
the dark hair at each temple, but his hazel eyes were still bright and mocking
as they twinkled at her.
"Is that all you can say?"
Khyrisse flung herself off the coach step
and into his arms. The stranger's mocking expression shifted briefly to
startlement, and then vanished completely. He held her gently, murmuring quiet
words in Cynystran into her pointed ear.
Khyrisse untangled herself after a moment, scrubbing at her eyes.
"Pieret," she stammered, "wha-- what are you doing..." Her
voice came to a choking halt, and she stiffened, one hand rising to cover a
faint triangular scar at the side of her throat.
"What am I doing here?" he
asked, smiling as he leaned against the side of the coach.
"What are you doing ANYWHERE?"
Khyrisse whispered. "Eric and Ixhriy murdered you sixteen years ago."
The noise of the crowd grew deafening as
it surrounded the platform. A wildly gesturing figure standing on the platform
went down, as a hurled stone struck him in the temple. Khyrisse glanced dazedly
towards the town square of Rumi and saw Flicker being shoved away by an
angry-looking man in uniform.
"What the hell is going ON here?" Khyrisse demanded suddenly,
in an almost normal tone, and reached behind her for the sword strapped across
the top of her backpack.
Cat and Mouse
of Post:: Ebreth Tor
Flicker darted back and nearly collided
with the stranger. "Excuse me," he said, and caught Khyrisse by the
sleeve. "Come here and act Mithril Dagger Hero-like. There's
The archer led her deftly along the
perimeter of an angry crowd. A large black man, restrained by three guards now,
was shouting at them and gesturing at a fallen fellow. "They don't even
look like anyone who's done anything wrong!" he yelled. "Leave them
out of this!"
"Get their attention," said
Flicker, in undertone. Khyrisse shot off some pyrotechnics; it sobered the
crowd up right quick. The guards kind of hesitated as they recognized her.
"What's going on here," said Flicker.
"We've apprehended a dangerous
pirate," said the captain.
"I'm an honest merchant!" said
the man. "If I was a powerful sociopath, do you think I'd be wandering
around getting my butt kicked like this?"
Flicker looked at him. "This is not
the man you think he is," he said.
"He said he was Tor!" shouted a
heavy man in a blacksmith's apron.
"Tor is a very common surname on the
Islands," said Flicker. "There has been enough misunderstanding and enough
violence here for one year. Has this
man done anything wrong while he's been here?"
The guards kind of looked at each other.
"Are you okay?" said the man, to
the guy who'd been hit by a rock.
Khyrisse took him firmly by the arm.
"Aren't you going to break up this crowd?" she said sweetly to the
"If I had wanted this kind of rough
and tumble mob rule," said Ebreth, "I could have stayed on the
Flicker looked at him until he looked
down. "Who are you?"
"I'm Ebreth Tor," he said,
"but I'm not the same one, do you understand? I'm a different Ebreth Tor.
If I was the same man, would I be stupid enough to be traveling around here as
myself, without any protection or anything?" He shook his head, and then
he grabbed Flicker's arm. "Look," he said. "I'm doing the best I
The mob seemed to be dispersing. The other
sailors had disappeared as surreptitiously as possible. Jack looked up from his
calculations to see Flicker and Khyrisse returning with Ebreth Tor, the butcher
of the high seas.
Charles Of-no-matter stood against the
wall of the pawn shop as Flicker and Khyrisse moved across the town square.
"That," he said, watching them, "was easier than I'd
Jack Paris, "Ariath", Special Surprise Interlude
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Unhappy Reunions
Jack looked up into the deep blue eyes of
Ebreth Tor. He tried very hard not to kill the man. "Ebreth Tor," he
"Do I know you?" Tor asked.
"Jack Paris, of the Montasi
Parises," Jack said coolly. "You knew my cousin, Lita."
"I'm not the same Ebreth Tor,"
"No, I suppose you wouldn't be."
"What the hell are you doing here,
Pieret?" Ariath demanded, cutting rudely in front of Khyrisse.
"Ari?" Pieret asked. "This
is indeed a reunion of old friends!"
Ariath punched Pieret in the stomach. He
doubled over and fell to the ground.
"Bastard," she spat. Then it was
as if she suddenly remembered where she was. "I hate you!" she cried,
and ran back to the carriage, wailing.
"Well, that went well," Pieret
said to Khyrisse.
Jack wandered over, leaving Ebreth with
"Jack, this is Pieret."
"Nice to meet you. Jack Paris, of the
Montasi Parises. My card." He held out a card to Pieret, who took it, and
in the blink of an eye, the card vanished. Only the rat's eyes were fast enough
to see it slipping down his sleeve.
"Pieret Laird-Clowes," Pieret
said, bowing with a flourish.
"Prestidigitator and professional anarchist."
"Isn't that paradoxical?" Jack
"That's why I have the
prestidigitation... to juggle the two," Pieret grinned.
"Welcome to the Dead College,"
the man in the mask said. "Welcome to nonexistence."
"I didn't really think it was
true," the man in the white, loose-fitting tunic said. "I mean, I
thought it was just a myth."
"No myth. The Dead College has been
as long as men have needed new lives."
"And you found me, even after my own
"We heard tell. Your skills would
serve the Dead College well, Iellan Tach."
"But my god is gone... my powers are
"Your presence on the board will be
more than enough. The Dead College has a place for you."
Bill Endicott felt a chill run up his spine.
The stories were true. The Dead College not only existed, but was indeed
looking for those thought dead. Iellan Tach might be spinning in his grave, but
he made for a great disguise. After only two weeks of planting clues and
rumors, they found "Iellan Tach" and brought him here, wherever here
was. The man in the mask lunged forward with amazing speed. Endicott stood
still. If he defended with his arts, the figure would know he wasn't Tach. The
man's arm shot past Endicott and grabbed something. It was a rat. "Follow
Greymalkin," the man in the mask said. "This audience is over."
Endicott turned and saw the old man who had approached him yesterday,
Greymalkin, standing by the door. As Endicott followed Greymalkin out, he heard
a rat's screams from the chamber he just left.
Flicker, Ebreth Tor
Cat and Mouse
of Post:: Karma
Vas hurried to comfort Ariath, who was
doing her best to look wretched. "If you'd rather not be assaulted pretty
much continuously," Flicker murmured, "you may want to consider
"I'm a law-abiding person!" said
Ebreth. "I shouldn't have to sneak around like a thief!"
"May I at least recommend an
alias?" said Flicker. "Or maybe some sunglasses?"
Ariath turned and started to say something
to him, and then her jaw dropped. "Behind you!" she screamed.
Flicker whirled and ducked violently; the
sword thrust skimmed over his shoulder, and he grabbed his tall attacker by the
upper arm as his momentum carried him past and threw him after his sword. He
landed with a hard clatter. Ebreth backed away with something of a gasp.
Flicker got his own blade out and to the man's throat. "Thank you,"
he said, breathing, "Ariath."
He recognized the man then. "Charlie," he said, "in case
no one's told you yet, you're not under the evil influence of Bane
"Well?" said Lilith.
Geryon paused. "We're still twelve
"On a positive note, the others all
seem to be back to normal."
"Well, thank the Light-Bringer for
small favors. That would be just what I need right now." She pressed her
forehead. "Assign a detail to see if those demon cretins took them. If
they've left the lower planes forget them. Keeping order here has to be our top
priority. I want every espionage unit we've got on the internal situation, and
I want insubordination taken out as brutally and publicly as--"
"Intendant," said Geryon.
Lilith exhaled. "And those fucking
demons are priority number two. I want no ground given to them, General, not an
inch. If Lord Monas were to return, and it wouldn't be the first time, twelve
missing souls are peanuts compared to holes in our borders and our hierarchy,
and they are much more easily covered up, if you catch my drift."
"You don't--think they're
"I still don't know what
happened," she said, through her teeth, "but it won't happen again, I
can promise you that. Geryon." He looked at her. "Take their names.
If they've reverted as our population here seems to have, we'll be seeing them
again eventually. And I intend making an example of them."
The archdevil inclined his head.
"You are dismissed."
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