Site Map                                                    Table of Contents                                                    Confused?

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Prophets and Matchmakers, Part VI

Character(s): The Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Rat Catcher

The rat had never been more afraid. The thing behind it moved like quicksilver. At first it was a cat, then it was a terrier, then it was something that looked like it belonged under the sea. Somehow, the rat managed to keep ahead. First it dodged one way, then another. Still, the rat couldn't help thinking it was being herded someplace.
The rat ran under a merchant's booth. The thing was right behind him. Now it was the shape of a very large and hairy dog. The rat ran out the other side of the booth and saw a hiding place. There was an open drain in the middle of the field. He headed straight for it, just managing to jump in as the thing was about to strike.
It never occurred to the rat that an open drain pipe in the middle of a field was not a usual occurrence.

Character(s): Xyrhyix, Alderon, Zzenith
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Mind Games
Title of Post: Simple Division

"Zzenith drink another want," Zzenith said to the bartender.
"Zzenith drink another want," said Xyrhyix.
Alderon just sat looking confused as the bartender put another drink before them. He was beginning to get a headache.
Xyrhyix, following Zzenith's lead, engulfed the beverage and absorbed its contents and the glass itself. Both Zzenith and Xyrhyix laughed a multi-voiced laugh.
"At least they are having a good time," thought Alderon.
Xyrhyix then paused and shuddered. It was as if his whole body was a tuning fork. Then, in a blink of an eye, there were two of the dark blobby creatures. One at the bar and another on the floor. The one on the floor moved quickly and out the door. Alderon was dumbfounded.
"Congratulations Zzenith gives!" said the Argos.
Xyrhyix was silent. All of his mouths just smiled.

Character(s): Tessa, Warp, Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Orion's Belt
Title of Post: Tessa, Wracked.

Warp looked up at what was left of his first true love.
"Oh, Tess, what've they done to you?"
The last time he had seen Tessa, they had just come back from Ataniel... the same world Jack was from, coincidentally. Tessa had been there, amnesiac, looking for Warp. Collapsar was hunting for him, and she had traveled back to warn him out of loyalty. Fortunately, she ended up traveling with Kyria and her friends (though, Warp figured, she probably wasn't Kyria at the time). They eventually got her to Warp, and the crew kicked Collapsar's butt.
It was when Warp and Tessa got home that the shit hit the fan.
The fight had something to do with Tessa being sick of being the last part of "Warp and..." She was tired of the life he had dragged her into ten years ago, and just wanted to be left alone. No adventures, no amnesia... no Warp.
So Warp had agreed. He took off for space and tried to forget about the whole thing.
Sometime between then and now, however, she had somehow ended up here in the Center's citadel, floating in the Nexus of Space and Time. Oh, and destroying the Nexus while she was there, too.
Psionic energy washed over Warp as he stood there, stunned.
"You're going to have to kill her, you know," the voice of the Center said over a comlink somewhere.
"Like hell I am," Warp said.

***
The Starcrusher flew towards the Nexus.
The computer had locked Jack out completely. Even though he was a being of pure math, the security to Orion's computer system was stronger than his Uncle Asinus' breath. The only thing he had going for him was that Orion assumed him dead. Even the Rat could do more.
Jack sighed, and went back to the counting he had started back orbiting Saturn.
This may be the dullest grand adventure I've ever been on, Jack thought.

Character(s): Khyrisse and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: What Am I Running, a Kissing Booth?

Khyrisse shook her head, laughing a little, and turned to the scattered members of the Rat Pack. "Is everybody all right? Anybody see any more of those little critters, did we get them all?"
"I think they were all destroyed," Valende said, dusting off her hands a little. "Was anyone badly hurt? Who was hit by them?"
"Milady? Vas said, nodding her towards his sister. Khyrisse shook her head. "No, I'm all right, it's a scratch. I can get it later. Valende used up a lot of her healing magic in that fight, let her heal someone else. Skitch, are you okay?" she called, looking around.
"Yeah, I'm fine! I'm back here with Fred and Jack's uncle Asinus."
Khyrisse rolled her eyes. You're with a polymorphed demon horse and/or pit fiend, and the lewdest, dirtiest talking donkey on Ataniel, and this is "fine". I need to get you a more normal life, Skitch...

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Penultimate
Title of Post: Nothing For Two Days, Then You Blink And Miss It

Ebreth blinked. "Well, that went fast." His foot was oozing blood in a strange symmetry, less like it had been pricked by a thousand pins than like minuscule bits of it had been disintegrated, just beneath the surface of his skin. Ebreth made a mental addition to his very large list of Crappy Things That Can Happen To You, in the Less Painful section. "Hey," he said, suddenly, "where's the Rat?"


Character(s): Khyrisse and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: Suckered Again

"I am quickly coming to realize," Khyrisse replied, looking hesitantly at Ebreth with a little smile, "that fights involving Janus are like that. He did the same sort of thing in Rimbor with that bomb, only a lot faster." She puzzled over Janus' last words to her, staring into space for a second. "Hey, we've gotta stick together, hm? Not many of us left." Now what the heck did he mean by that? "Us" wha--
"Hey," Ebreth said, suddenly, "where's the Rat?"
Khyrisse blinked. "What? Jack? Do you have the Rat?"
Jack blinked back at her for a second, and hefted his satchel. From the weight alone, he knew that its passenger had departed, but he checked anyway. Jack looked up and shook his head morosely.
"Goddammit, it was a distraction. No wonder the fight was over so fast," Khyrisse whispered. "Did anyone see where the Rat went?"

Character(s): The Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post: Under the fairground

The rat was running as fast as his feet could take him. The pipe was a maze of small rat-sized conduits. The air was heavy with mildew, dead bugs, and death. The rat didn't care. He just wanted to get away. Away from the thing that had chased him. Away from the nightmares. Away from everything that seemed to torment him.
He rounded a corner and found an open area. It was a rat's nest. From the look of it, it had not been used for a while. The rat sniffed the nest. Strange, there was no scent. It was as if the nest had been made without being handled. Still, the nest was tempting and he was tired. The rat entered the nest and fell fast asleep.

Character(s): The Rat Pack, sans Rat
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: What Next?
Title of Post: Ratless in Tharr

Khyrisse's magic mirror had turned up absolutely nothing. "Well, how are we supposed to do this without our rat?" said Ebreth.
"I--don't know," said Khyrisse. "But Val and I need to replenish our energies if we hope to have a chance against Odn."
"I can't find where he's gone," announced Skitch. "Fred, you don't have tracking skills, do you?"
"If I was a pit fiend, maybe I could do something useful," said Fred. "If I was a pit fiend, maybe I could just kill this jerk and you wouldn't have to worry about it."
"I'll replenish your energies, chickie," leered Asinus.

Character(s): Odn and the Collector
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: The plot continues

Deep under his stronghold, Odn continued to cast the spell that would grant him the power to become the fourth lich lord. He cast spell after spell, imbibed potion after potion, and drew magical sigil after sigil. Throughout all this, the Collector watched and waited.
"Laran," Odn said. "The time for convergence is approaching. I suggest you send one of our puppets to lead our friends to the appropriate place. Remember, they must not reach here until the proper time."
The Collector bowed and walked out of the vortex of energy, away from the True King of Kings. Once out of the area of magical influence, the Collector clapped twice. One of the rosy floating spheres turned dark red. The Collector stared at it, as if he was willing it to obey his command. The red then faded back to its rosy color. His servant was on its way. The trap was set.

Character(s): The Rat Pack, ratless
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: ...Deserting a Sinking Ship

Khyrisse sighed and rolled her eyes. "Trust me, I don't need those energies replenished," she muttered under her breath. She put her hands on her hips and looked around the deserted fairgrounds, wrinkling her nose at it. "Do we want to check into an inn-- if we can find one open-- or shall I set up my home somewhere? I can still manage that spell. I know it's only afternoon, but I don't know what we can do with no rat, not enough spells, and injuries."
Ebreth sighed and leaned up against a deserted merchant's stand. "Sounds good to me."
Khyrisse sighed also. Now Ebreth wasn't looking at her. Peachy. How was she supposed to apologize if she couldn't even get him to pay attention to her? Not to mention that they'd lost the Rat. Odn was probably within spell range, and they couldn't find him or their guide. This was a fine mess.

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Now What?
Title of Post: What Skitch Learned On His Summer Vacation

"Inns are dangerous," Skitch opined. "Your place is safe. Besides, you've got a pool."

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: The Calm Before The Storm
Title of Post: Jack Kicks Himself

"I'll second the vote for the pool," Jack muttered distractedly. He should have been watching the Rat.
"Hey, someone left this bikini stand unattended," Ariath pointed out.
"Okay," Khyrisse said, "that's three for the pool."
"Four," Vas leered.
"You've got to stop hanging out with Asinus," Khyrisse muttered to him.
"I can't believe I lost the Rat," Jack sighed.
"I can't believe this is a bathing suit!" Ariath grinned.
"I can't believe it's not butter," Asinus digressed.
"Can't we ever use a coping mechanism other than humor?" Khyrisse grumbled. "Spell it is."
Jack continued to wander around aimlessly, hoping the Rat was just asleep somewhere.
It wasn't.

Character(s): Norn
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: One Hand Washes The Other

"Good evening, Norna," the old man said.
"You?" she asked. "I thought you were... otherwise occupied."
"I'm watching the results of a particular experiment, one that's almost over."
"So what do you want with me, hero?"
"There's something in your possession that I require. In return, I can offer you this." The old man held out a silver key.
"That can't be..."
"The Silver Key of Dreaming. It would serve you quite well in your quest for the Myriad, hm?"
"It would indeed, wizard. What is it you want?"
"The smallest of things. At least, I believe it is currently."
"You speak in riddles, mortal."
The old man frowned. "I only want a single jar of glass."
"Easily done," Norna smiled. "It's all yours."
"Then this is yours." He flipped the key into the air.
He was gone before it landed in Norna's palm. She had no doubt that he had already acquired what it was he had come for.
She looked over at Luthien. Still sleeping.
Flicker, however, watched from his tent. Keep pushing it, Norna, he thought. When this is over, there's going to be a reckoning.

Character(s): The Wonder Twins and their Sex-Crazed Friends
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Who Needs 'Em?!
Title of Post: Squabbling in the Ranks

Valende sighed and looked at her brother sternly. "Vas..."
Vas looked back at her and grinned. "You only live once, Valende. You should get the ocean-blue one. Shouldn't she, Jack? Wouldn't she look marvelous?"
"Vas..."
Jack was aware of a strong undercurrent going on in Val's conversation with her brother, but wasn't sure what it meant. "Of course she would," he said loyally.
Valende sighed softly, not looking away from her brother. Vas arched an eyebrow at her in amusement. Jack wondered if he'd said the wrong thing. "Thank you, Jack darling," she said, in a sincere tone. "I think I will get it, then."
Jack sighed quietly in relief.
"Now for our employer," Vas murmured gleefully, as Valende turned to lift down the stylish one-piece. Valende whirled back and grabbed her brother by the back of the collar. "Oh, no, you don't!"
"Too late," Vas chuckled. Valende sighed again as Ariath descended on a wildly protesting Khyrisse with a wine-colored bikini in her hands. "I'm not wearing that! I'd be more decently clothed swimming in the nude!"
"That's got my vote," Asinus said.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor ('cause everyone else is busy picking out swimwear)
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Whatever Happened to Tharrfest?

Janice wandered out of the ownerless shop with an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka-dot
two-piece. The streets were still deserted. "Man, I wonder what happened to everyone here?"
"I don't know," Ebreth said from his relaxed position outside the shop's door. "I was wondering the same thing."
"D'ya think that thingie got them all?"
"I hope not. Carnage of that caliber isn't something I ever want to see again."
"Whoa, way to bring me down, man."
At that point, the first person Ebreth had seen since arriving in Tharr wandered out of a house down the street. Then another. And another. "It's gone!"
"We're safe!"
"Hey! Looters!"
Ebreth decided that this was a good time for them to get their butts into Khyrisse's portable manse.


Character(s): The Rat Pack, Odn, the Collector
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (with help from Evan Haag)
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Saving One's Rep/Fiend of a Half-Forgotten Tale

"Hey! Looters!"
Khyrisse hurried out of the shop at the sound of this. She blinked rapidly, and then headed down the street, right for the woman who had spoken. "Excuse me," she said with a friendly smile, and pointed behind her. "Can you tell us whose store that is?"

Khyrisse counted coins, stifling a sigh. Saving your reputation for the sake of New Trade is much more important than getting a good bargain. Pieret-- Kardia-- surely did enough damage to it. "This one too?" the woman behind the counter said, smiling. She was holding up the wine-colored bikini. Khyrisse opened her mouth. Ariath caught her eye and grinned challengingly. Khyrisse closed it again. "Yes, please," she said with a sigh.

The Rat Pack rode out to one of the abandoned houses at the edge of the village, where Khyrisse cast her mansion spell on the large archway leading to the family's kitchen. She fiercely ignored the month-old signs of violence and looting in the front room of the house as she did so, and whisked through the door after Fred. Khyri flopped bonelessly into one of the chairs in the front hallway of her home.
"No visitors, Milady?"
"No visitors, Sennett."
"I'll bring you a brandy in the library, Milady," Sennett said, with a little bow and the affectionate smile of a old retainer. "Welcome home."

***
Clouds began to gather off to the north and west, dimming the light as the sun began its descent. The more knowledgeable of the villagers predicted rain by daybreak. A few of the oldest in the town, the tale-keepers and teachers of the young, watched the lightning flash on the horizon that evening and frowned in an absent-minded way. They looked at the distant, off-color flashes as if the eerie display reminded them of a childhood nightmare, and went to their beds disturbed.
Odn cast spells through the night, ignoring the increasing weariness and strain. His tired eyes began seeing motion and sparks of light, off at the edges of his vision, but when he looked, there was never anything there. He pressed onward, gathering his determination and ignoring the annoying phantom flickers. The Collector saw nothing at all, and bestowed a disdainful glance upon Odn's bent head.
Another dead rat at the edge of the gigantic Rat King twitched. The head rotated all the way around with a faint crackling noise, its stiff gums pulling back from the teeth in a gruesome snarl. A brief and very tiny spark reflected deep inside its dimmed red eye, the magnesium white of a lightning bolt.
The black body of the rat then lay still once more.

Character(s): Sunfighter
Author: Laura "Palmer" Redish (prodded by Kris)
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before The Storm
Title of Post: Beneath The Surface

Khyrisse didn't know if this spell was going to work or not, frankly. She had been unable to absorb Threnody's mind when the noisy pirate had passed through Trade, a blur of brightly colored static. On the other hand, Praxis seemed to have no trouble sending and receiving mental messages. And Khyrisse didn't know enough about the Lower Planes to fill a thimble: the pact between Lucifer and Arawn, basically, and who the divine powers had been. Topical information that was these days. Khyrisse drank some more of her brandy. There was one person from the Lower Planes she trusted, and she had already made up her mind to try and reach him; still she had put it off for an hour already, pretending to wonder whether the spell would work or not. Khyrisse sighed. She knew she really just didn't want another lecture on Ebreth.
Khyrisse curled up in her favorite green chair in the library, resolutely, put down what remained of her brandy, and tried to contact Flicker's subconscious mind.

***
Khyrisse pushed her way tentatively through webs of light and darkness. "Flicker?" Her voice echoed. She could see someone, ahead, too streaked in shadow to recognize, and for some reason Khyrisse was afraid. "Flicker? Is--is that you?" She brushed the shadows to one side with her unsteady hand and came face to face with herself, cracked in half in the broken reflection of the wall. She stifled a brief scream with her hand. "It is happening again," said a voice from behind her. Khyrisse whirled on a blond woman in a white dress. There were gold and scarlet feathers tied in her hair. "It is happening again."
"Who--who are you? What is happening again?" Khyrisse thought inexorably of Eric, and gave herself a mental smack.
"A dream I had," she whispered, "once."
"I need to speak to Flicker. Where is Flicker?"
"Riklandir." She put her fingers to Khyrisse's forehead, gently. There was a huge hole torn through her wrist, and Khyrisse couldn't help gasping as she stumbled back, into the reflective wall. "What do you need, Khyrisse?"
"We--we need to get to Hell. But Valende's god is dead, so we can't cast plane shift. And, and we don't want to sacrifice anyone."
"You will find the eye of worlds in the place you want to go least of all," she said.
Rimbor? Cynystra? Asinus' butt? Khyrisse had come here to consult a friend, not an oracle. "The Eye of Worlds? That's not part of the Septum Potentis, is it...? "
"Nah," she said. "Been there. Done that."
Her changes in diction were starting to give Khyrisse a headache. "All right, look, I--I talked to Ebreth, and he said he escaped from Hell and his mind was rearranged in Limbo. Is this possible?"
"All things are possible," said the dream-figure. "I know the darknesses love can transform."
"That's not what I'm asking you!" she shouted.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! I'm not asking you if love can transform Ebreth, I'm asking you if having an alignment change in Limbo could fuck your brain up! I'm asking you if someone who escaped from Hell could have a physical body!"
"Yes," she said, "yes, and... yes."
Khyrisse held her head in both hands. Now she knew it was Flicker. "I thought you were against this relationship."
"This is my subconscious. I'm a hopeless romantic."
"Well never mind about that. It's not your subconscious mind's business or your conscious mind's business. It's--it's not any of your businesses!" The whole conversation was making her head swim. The kaleidoscopic imagery of her surroundings wasn't helping. "Listen, I've got Duke St. Augustine's soul trapped in a gem. He was possessing one of my bodyguards. Do you know how he got loose again?"
"You used a wish to send him away from here," whispered the dream-woman. "Beware the things you wish for. What goes around comes around."
Thanks a lot. "Hey," she said, suddenly reminded, "hey, we got a couple of prophecies from Tarrin. You don't know anything about this, do you? One of them was about four hands fighting and destroying all of Ataniel. Two were Diarian and two weren't."
"The fourth must be prevented," she sighed. "The future begins to unravel. Do you think we're hanging out with Norn for the company?"
"I'd--been wondering, actually."
"How many machines will you see," she said, "before you stop your believing that speed will slide down on you, like brakes in bad weather?"
"I--I don't know," said Khyrisse, suddenly rather flustered. "The, the second prophecy was about two wounds in the earth, and a third one approaching."
"Oh, that's just some lame asteroid full of dead Diarians from outer space. Don't worry about that."
Khyrisse pressed her head. She had the sudden and incongruous thought that her father would really get a kick out of Flicker's subconscious. "Okay, all right. Look, I'm almost out of time. Malcar got loose somewhere in Edim--"
"Khyrisse," said the dream-image, gently. "I know. I'm the one who told you that."
"Oh. Right."
The dream image was starting to break up. "It is happening again," said the Sunfighter.
"What is happening again?"
"It doesn't matter," she sighed. "You cannot learn from my mistakes. You must make them yourself if you would transform them to have a greater meaning."
"I don't think I like that," Khyrisse said numbly. "Aren't you a tragic figure?"
"I am six tragedies," she said, "together I am a triumph. That is my secret and that is my strength. Good night." The walls dissolved and the woman unfolded into a brilliant burst of white.

***
Flicker stared off briefly at the Jotunheim mountains. "Khyrisse says Tor is a different man," he said.
"Who cares?" said Norna.
"Let's hope so," said Luthien, grimly.

Back to the Rat Kings Menu

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

Peigan Nation * Ree Indians * Beaded bracelets tattoos * Northern Arapaho villages * Nakoda lodge

Check out Laura's Journey to the Center of the Earth reviews and links pages
Walkthrough of the day: Quiet Weekend In Capri Hints
Book of the day: Chile’s Native Forests: A Conservation Legacy