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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Prophets and Matchmakers, Part V

Character(s): The Collector and the Rat Pack
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Carriage ride from hell

Ebreth looked dreamily out the window of the Trade Carriage at the scenery. Everyone seemed to have the feeling that they were finally going to end this Rat King business once and for all. It was about time.
Alphred was sitting on the floor of the Carriage, chanting in some weird dialect. It was starting to get on Ebreth's nerves.
"Could you stop that?" Ebreth asked.
Alphred continued chanting, then looked up. "I must tell the Great Spirits where I am so they can guide me."
Alphred started chanting again, and Ebreth looked back out the window.
They were starting to enter a fog bank. The mists rolled past the Carriage as it moved. Ebreth liked watching the patterns. Suddenly, the mist was inside the Carriage.
"What the hell?" said Khyrisse, stunned.
Then the wall of fear hit everyone.
"Oh shit!" cried everyone, almost at once.
The entire Rat Pack tried to scramble but there was no room. The mist reduced the visibility in and the around the Carriage to zero. Sounds of screams and ripping flesh filled the air.
"Stop the Carriage!" someone yelled.
The Carriage ground to a halt and the mist suddenly evaporated.
"Who did he get?" asked Val. However, her question was moot. Vas, Alphred, Fred, Asinus and the former assassin from the pyramid were all curled up on the ground outside of the Carriage.
"How did they get there?" asked Jack.
Val, Ariath and Khyrisse rushed to the fallen.
"Looks like he was in a rush this time," Val said. "We must be getting close."
They dragged the five back to the Carriage. No one noticed the jade charm hidden among the others around Janice's neck.

Character(s): T.F.Y.R.
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Prophecies Will Not Be Denied
Title of Post: Too Bad For Odn

Odn cast a spell to prevent the Trade Carriage from reaching the Seven Princedoms for months, by trapping it in a recursive loop. Unfortunately, he neglected to factor into his spell the environmental constant Khyrisse was starting to use in all her spatial and temporal magics. Instead of trapping the marked ones in a recursive loop, the spell seemed to have trapped the recursive loop in one of the marked ones. Odn cursed internally. He had no idea why that had happened, but damn him if he was going to admit that to Laran. "Everything is going exactly according to plan," he said, in his most sinister voice.
He was just going to have to stall them the old-fashioned way. And hurry up.

***
Meanwhile, waiting to rendezvous with the Rat Pack in Tharr that night, Janus smiled. Everything was going exactly according to plan.

Character(s): Asinus Paris, felled by the Collector
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Hard To Keep A Good Ass Down

"What was that?" groaned Asinus, shaking his big gray head. "Hey, lolly, come give us a little mouth-to-mouth, why don't you." He made a lewd gesture at Khyrisse with his tongue.


Character(s): Beliath, Endicott
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Dead College
Title of Post: Mistaken Identity

Endicott quickly rushed through the labyrinth of passages that made up the lower level of the Dead College. He pushed aside the arras that hid the concealed door and put the silver key into the lock. The door swung open into Beliath's hiding place.
"You were right, Beliath," Endicott/Tach said. "Greymalkin attacked the doppelganger you procured in Rimbor."
"Money well spent. The Brotherhood is often a resource that many people forget about."
"So now that you know the truth, what do you plan, lord?"
"I suspect that the King of Kings is behind Greymalkin. Fortunately, I've made contact with one of those who oppose him." Beliath reached into a cauldron and pulled something out. "And this will ensure that at least that one will be able to oppose him."
In Beliath's hand, Endicott saw ten rats, bound together by their tails.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Warp
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Orion's Belt
Title of Post: The Death of Jack Paris

Warp stepped out of transspace into the Center's citadel at the Nexus of Space and Time. He kept a warp field around him so that the Center's surveillance wouldn't detect him.
The Center was a cosmic being that came to Earth once to "acquire" the thousand most evolved human beings. Triad, Manstalker and the Templars were able to drive him off, fortunately. Warp encountered him for the first time when the original USS Infinity entered his space and he attempted to trap them indefinitely for study.
Needless to say, an alliance with Orion was something that worried Warp a lot.
Warp moved to an access terminal and plugged the intrusion palmtop Mech had designed for him two years ago into it. "Okay, you little hunk of plastic, do your stuff," Warp muttered nervously.
In moments, it had used the translation codes from the Infinity One to access the Center's computer files.
O-R-I-O-N, Warp typed. "Spill it, space-boy," he whispered. "Orion Alliance," the palmtop read. "see also Warp Project and Psiapocalypse."
"Sheee-it," Warp muttered. "I don't know which one sounds more interesting."

***
Jack paced nervously. He couldn't feel anything himself, but something had everyone else on the ship fidgety and nervous. He again wished that Val was here to act as his anchor to the human (or elven, Jack supposed) world. The door opened.
"Hey!" Jack shouted. "I had that lock--"
Orion silenced Jack with a strong blow. Jack fell against the wall.
"What th--?" Jack started.
"We know that you have been in contact with Warp," Orion said. "And he is now AWOL. Explain to me why I don't kill you now, Paris."
"I don't know what you're--"
Orion pressed a button on the side of his belt and Jack felt pain wrack him. Numbers started to lose their rationality. Lines bent. Things divided themselves by zero.
"I can destroy you, Jack Paris. I know your secrets. Now tell me where Warp is."
"Flark you," Jack spat.
Orion pressed another button, and Jack's body was torn apart, the magicks exhausted beyond repair.
The mathematical equation that was Jack Corfa Paris leapt for the only stable anchor it could find.
Orion picked up the comlink and tore it open. Removing the recording chip, he handed it to Pyre, cowering behind the conqueror.
"Replay this. Find out what he sent to Warp."
From inside the Starcrusher's computer, Jack saw and heard all.
Unfortunately, he was helpless to do anything at all.

***
"Center, this is Orion."
"What is it, I'm busy," the Center said, adjusting the containment constants. "You know what happens if she gets free."
"We may be too late. Warp knows about our alliance. He's escaped, probably to your citadel."
"Full dimensional scan!" the Center ordered.
"Anomaly on deck seven," the computer replied.
"He's here," the Center said. "I'll get back to you."
"He's not ready!" Orion shouted. "He won't kill her!"
"I'm not going to give him a choice," the Center replied.
The Center slammed his hand on a console, cutting off all connection outside the Nexus of Space and Time.

***
"Oh, fuck," Warp muttered as he breached the containment grid around "Psiapocalypse."
The glow from the center of the spherical room was blinding.
"What have they done to you, Tess," he said, a tear running down his face.
Tessa gave no answer as she continued to destroy the universe.

Character(s): Alderon, Zzenith
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Mind Games
Title of Post: Meeting of the Minds

Xyrhyix shuffled along the landscape towards Tharr. Passing through a small village, he sensed something... strange. Turning, he headed off the road towards a native structure.

***
"I'm looking for Flicker," Alderon said. "I was told that you knew him."
"Flicker Zzenith knows in ways many," Zzenith said.
"What?" Alderon said. "What are you saying?"
"Zzenith Flicker incarnations previous in knew."
"Huh? What?"
"Know Zzenith Flicker does."
"Excuse, can you say that again?"
Xyrhyix appeared in the doorway.
"Friend of yours?" the bartender asked.
"Argos like creature is, but Zzenith kin is not."
"Can you understand him?" Alderon asked the bartender.
"Friend are you, creature Zzenith like?" Zzenith asked Xyrhyix.
"Friend are you," Xyrhyix repeated. "Creature Zzenith like."
"Argos DNA similar is," Zzenith reported to Alderon and the barkeep. "Drawn to Zzenith's presence creature is."
"Huh?" Alderon asked.
"Ale with Zzenith creature have?"
"Ale with Zzenith creature have," the thing answered, and shuffled into the bar.
"Mugs of ale two, please," Zzenith said.
The barkeeper plopped two mugs down. Zzenith grasped one in a tentacle. Xyrhyix did the same.
"At least this I understand," Alderon sighed, and the three creatures drank the good wine long into the night.

Character(s): Jack Paris and the E Street Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: Tharrfest Dead Ahead

The city of Bannin was just becoming visible across the Tharrian plains. Jack smiled. He was feeling a little left out, being the only one unmarked by the Collector. Of course, he wasn't feeling so left out that he ever wanted to see it again...
"Tharrfest, ho!" Ebreth cried out from the seat next to him.
"Wow, like, this is gonna be rilly cool," Janice said. "I wonder if they'll have tie-dye here."
"What is Tharrfest, anyway?" Alphred asked. "Is it a ritual gathering to give thanks to the spirits?"
Skitch opened his mouth to disinform Alphred, but Jack beat him to it. "It's a marketplace, the largest in the Seven Princedoms. Merchants from all over Ataniel gather to trade wares and to, ah, gossip."
"This is going to be so much fun," Vas sighed.

***
Up above, Ariath rode next to Khyrisse.
"So, did you and Ebreth work everything out?" Ariath asked congenially.
"No," Khyrisse sighed.
"Why the hell not?" Ariath said, exasperated.
He left too soon, Khyrisse thought. "I was dealing with stuff about Eric... I..." didn't really give him a chance "I have a lot to think about."
Ariath sighed. "Get over yourself, girl. He won't wait forever for you."
Then Bannin became visible, and Tharrfest beckoned.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ariath
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: More Goddamned Unwanted Romantic Advice

"Waiting three days constitutes forever?" Khyrisse asked with a wry lift of her eyebrow.
"I dunno, you tell me," Ariath said. "Do you see Ebreth sitting up here?"
Khyrisse sighed.
"It's not like he's not interested in you. Why don't you just jump him?"
"With a gleefully chuckling audience outside the door? You have got to be kidding!" Khyrisse shouted, exasperated. "Making an ass of myself over someone is one thing, but I'll be damned if I do it as a spectator sport!"
"And you're likely to make an ass of yourself over Ebreth?" Ariath grinned. "Boy, you weren't kidding about him, were you?"
Khyrisse groaned, painfully embarrassed. "Ariath, shut up..."
"Suit yourself," Ariath replied amiably, and settled back to enjoy the scenery. You know, loud conversations out here carry a bit to the inside of the Carriage, Ariath thought with a smile. I wonder if any of that one made it. Naah, too much to hope for... and if Vas heard it, it'd only make him worse! Ariath chuckled. Khyrisse looked sidewise at her, suspiciously. "What now?" she demanded.
"Oh, nothing...!"
"Good."

Character(s): Ariath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Everybody Pairs Up
Title of Post: A Deal With Ariath

"I'll tell you what," Ariath said.
"What?" Khyrisse asked.
"If you go for him, I promise to make sure that at least me and Vas are too busy to pay attention."
"So now it's safe for me to be alone with him?"
"I didn't trust him before... but what he said to you seemed genuine. I'm satisfied if you are."
"Not yet," Khyrisse grinned.
"You bad girl!"
"Takes one to know one."
Tharrfest was dead ahead.

Character(s): An Antisocial Valkyrie
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Completely Unrelated To Rat Kings

"The Myriad is an ancient Norse artifact," explained Flicker. "The Valkyrie have been questing for it since before I was born."
"Stop expositing, Messala. It's very boring."
"You know," he said, "Luthien doesn't have to do this, Norn. If you tell people what the hell you're doing they're a lot more likely to follow you."
"He'll do it because of what will happen to him and his family if he doesn't," said the Valkyrie, "don't mistake that for a threat you can just ignore, Mageson, it is your destiny. Your life as a lich lord would not please you."
"I'm doing it because Flicker asked me to," said Luthien, glaring at her. "Maybe if you had any friends you wouldn't have to work so hard to get people to do what you want."
Norna was prevented from hitting him by a seven-year-old oath, so she hit Flicker instead. "Where are we going, Norn," sighed the archer.
"Jotunheim."
"Well, that figures." He looked at Luthien. "Too bad I'm not the Giant Slayer any more."

Character(s): KoK, et. la.
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Approaching the nadir

Odn was worried. Things were moving out of control. It would have been ideal if he had had more time, but he could still work things out.
"Laran," he called. "The time is almost here. We must take our position in the true King of Kings."
The Collector, who unknown to Odn was not Laran but something else, bowed his head and opened a secret passage. The two of them walked down the passage and down a long staircase. When they reached the bottom, Odn invoked a small spell and candles lit all over the room.
Cyclopean would best describe the room. It was so large that the ceiling and far walls were out of view. The floor was a chaotic mix of bones and wrought marble. The Collector and Odn walked a serpentine path across the floor, avoiding the death traps they had set just in case. The two walked in silence. Both knew what they had to do.
An hour later they reached their destination. A large parabolic area in the very center of the chamber. Above it floated hundreds of rosy spheres, with arcane sigils engraved on each one. Within each sphere was an image of someone who the Collector had marked. The spheres formed a slow-moving tornado of magic and glass. Directly beneath the center of the vortex was Odn's masterpiece, the true King of Kings: a rat king of close to 100,000 rats. Actually, the count was one hundred thousand minus one. There was room for one rat near the very center of the King of Kings.
"Our puppets insist on forcing the issue, so we shall oblige them. Laran, take your position!" Odn commanded.
The Collector obliged and stood slightly off-center from the core of the King of Kings. Odn followed and stood in the very heart of his creation.
"The necromantic energy is reaching its peak. Soon the world will tremble to the wrath of Odn, the fourth and greatest of the Lich Lords!!"
The Collector stood silently watching Odn's back. It grinned a predatory grin. If Odn had seen that grin, he would have been very afraid.

Character(s): Rat Pack
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Our State Fair is a Great State Fair

Alphred looked around the fairgrounds. "Something is wrong," he said, grabbing a totem from his pouch.
"What are you going to do with that?" asked Vas warily.
"The owl totem makes the unseen seen. It makes what is hidden not hidden. It makes..."
"Ok. Ok! I get the point."
Alphred invoked the power of the owl totem and the world changed, at least to Alphred. Things looked sharper, more alive. However, alive was the wrong word. Things looked dead. There was the air of death everywhere. It hung in the air like a dank miasma.
"This is bad," Alphred said. "There is not life, just death around here."
"That's not all that's strange," said Khyrisse.
"What?" asked Skitch looking worried.
"This is supposed to be a huge marketplace, correct?"
Jack nodded.
"Well, where are all the merchants? Where are the shoppers? In fact, it looks like we're the only people here."
The entire Rat Pack grew silent. They didn't like this one bit.

Character(s): Jack and the Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: The Owl Totem Is Not What It Seems

"That is because your death is here, mortals," grinned a lanky, twisted, bearded five-eyed creature.
"Incoming!" Vas shouted, and fired off two glowing magical arrows.
"That's not the Collector!" Jack cried.
"Jack, dear," Val said, pushing him to the ground, "shut up and take cover."
"Yes'm," Jack agreed.
"How many bloody minions does Odn have?" Ebreth shouted, running for safety.
"I am the Spirit of Darkness, the Anti-Life incarnate," the thing cried.
"And I'm getting really sick of this," Khyrisse yelled, shooting off a disintegration at the thing.
The thing burst into a thousand pieces.
All of which began to grow.
"Something is wrong!" Alphred looked at his totem. It glowed with a strange black glow. It seemed the spirits here weren't quite as friendly as he had hoped.
Janus, Master of the Five Elements stepped into the fray. Flames poured forth from a circle floating before his hands. "Time to rock and roll," he intoned eerily.
No one noticed the Rat running away, chased by... something even worse.

Character(s): Khyrisse, fallen divinity
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title of Post: The Things We Think Of

You know, Khyrisse thought as she blasted away at the creature, I'm getting more tired of being called "mortal" than I am of being one.

Character(s): Khyrisse and The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title of Post: Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

The creature fragmented into a thousand pieces under the influence of the disintegration spell, all of which grew into little miniature versions of itself. Several fell on the closest members of the Rat Pack. A strange sound was heard, followed by exclamations of pain. Khyrisse swatted at one of the critters on her arm and cursed. She was surprised by the sudden chilled feeling shooting up from her elbow. She blinked down at it in surprise. There was a thin place on her sleeve the size of a small apple-- you could see dimly through many tiny holes in the leather, as if it were gauze, and the skin beneath it was blooming with little pinpricks of blood, welling up right through the stoneskin.
What the hell is this thing?
Khyrisse looked around as the many little creatures continued to grow. They were about four inches tall now, and there were hundreds of them. I can't get them all without fireballing my own group! She fired magic missile at half a dozen of them. They exploded, laughing merrily in tiny voices, and then there were several dozen smaller ones dancing near that spot, trying to catch up in size with the first batch.
"Oh, goody. Destructive spells just make it worse. Time to leave, guys!"

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, out another boot
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: Matter and Anti-matter

"I'm ready when you are," said Ebreth Tor, with surprising deadpan for somebody whose foot was being slowly dematerialized by an antimatter creature.

Character(s): Janus
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: Void Where Prohibited

Janus, Master of the Five Elements watched the mini-monsters dissolving his robe. Shit, he thought to himself. Much more of this and they'll be able to see who I really am under here.
Looking around, he noticed that no one was paying much attention.
"I call upon the Fifth Element!" Janus cried loud enough so no one would miss it. "I call upon the Void!"
There was a sudden rushing noise, as air started to be sucked into a gaping black hole between Janus' hands. The little creatures were drawn along with it. "Hey, if we can get them in here, we can zorch these guys once and for all!" Janus resonated.

Character(s): Val and Alphred
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Life and Void

Alphred, who just threw two of these killer dolls off himself, nodded to Janus. He quickly pulled the most precious of all his totems out of his pouch, the unicorn totem. He invoked the spirit and healing energies; energies of life flowed out. The anti-life creatures' responses were immediate: they fled from the onslaught of life-giving forces, right into the path of the void Janus had created.
"Good idea," Janus yelled, concentrating to keep the void active. "Now we need to herd them."
Val, who just managed to duck a blow from one of the anti-life things, heard Janus and saw what Alphred was doing. She called upon magical powers and started throwing healing spells off, one after another.
It was like the anti-life creatures were caught between two walls. They all now lined up with the void Janus had invoked.

Character(s): Janus, Master of the Five Elements, Khyrisse
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: Air, Water, Fire, uh... What Was That Middle Part Again?

"Line 'em up and bowl 'em down," Janus said in his strange intonation. "Stay right there, Tarzan."
Khyrisse had stepped forward to help. She stood across from Janus, focusing her will for a spell to blast them into the void. However, before she could utter a word of magic, she felt a strange pressure in the back of her throat. Suddenly, a tremendous stream of water shot forth from her mouth, spraying the creatures and forcing them into the Void.
Janus wiped his hands on his robe, pulling it tightly around himself. "Man, I hate anti-matter."
Khyrisse stomped up to Janus. "You. Did. That." she glared.
"Hey, we've gotta stick together, hm? Not many of us left." His faceless face leaned over and pressed itself to her lips briefly.
With that, he disappeared into the void.
"I'm really starting to hate that guy," she said, grinning under her breath.

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