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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
The Darknesses Love Can Transform, Part I

Character(s): The Rest Of The Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before The Storm
Title of Post: The Continuing Education Of Skitch

"I do not understand the mysticism of this po-kah," said Alphred, frowning at his cards.
Skitch inspected his seven cards. "So," he said, much too casually, "which did you say was better, a full house, or four of a kind?"
"Fold."
"Fold."
"Hey! I haven't even started betting yet!"
"If I was a pit fiend I could win this lousy game," sulked Fred.
"You could not," said Ebreth. "I do believe Jack could run the devil dry. He's inhuman."
Jack flinched, but Ebreth was clearly using the word casually. "Poker is probabilistic," he said.
"Seven-card stud," said Vas, his eyes twinkling at his sister. "Jacks are wild."
She kicked him under the table.

Character(s): Khyrisse, waking
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (and stuff by Laura Redish)
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: Coming Around Again

Khyrisse slid out of the dark green oversized chair, and hit the floor of the library with a startled thump, suddenly awake. Grendel on a pogo stick, she thought dizzily. Is that what being the Sunfighter is like...? She reached up shakily and got her brandy, and sat there on the floor for a while, sipping the last of her drink. You will find the eye of worlds in the place you want to go least of all. Khyrisse could think of a lot of places she didn't want to go. The thought made her sad, for a moment-- when she'd left home at twelve, she'd wanted to go everywhere.
Rimbor? Cynystra? Dyved? Diaria? she wondered, crankily. I dunno... Shannon's house? Where? An unpleasant thought occurred to her, and her stomach lurched. NO. Not the Temple of the Weird Sisters. The gate to Brytannwch is gone, Shannon told me s-- Listen to yourself, will you? Shannon told you so. Khyrisse smacked herself in the forehead. Okay, shelve that one and figure it out later.
She leaned back against the side of the desk and sighed. The fourth must be prevented. The future begins to unravel. Well, that doesn't sound good, but apparently Flicker and Luthien are doing something about it. Nice to know there's a reason for willingly traveling with Norna. I think it would take something that bad.
Khyrisse sighed again and got up. She set the empty glass on the desktop with a slightly shaky hand. I'll tell everyone about this stuff later, after we finish with Odn. If they want to keep running around, of course.
She shook her head suddenly, heading for the door. It is happening again. What is happening again, dammit?

***
Khyrisse opened the door to the game room. Her hair was a little rumpled. "Ebreth?" she said, tentatively. "Could I, ah, talk to you for a minute?" Ebreth looked up at her, looked at his cards, and put them face down on the table. "I fold," he said, and followed her into the hall. Ariath turned over Ebreth's hand. Three kings and two fours. "Men," she said, shaking her head.


***
Ebreth closed the door to the game room behind them. "This-- isn't about killing me again, is it?" he said, softly.
Khyrisse laughed a little, startled, and covered her mouth with her hand for a moment. "No, nothing like that. Um, I-- I wanted to talk to you about this morning." Khyri glanced over her shoulder, obviously considering that there was a room full of busybodies behind her. She grabbed Ebreth's hand and pulled him down the hall, back to the library.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Why To Lose At Poker

 

Jack watched Ebreth head off after Khyrisse.
Weird, he thought. Ebreth should have had a full house this hand. Jack quickly retabulated the odds. Without Ebreth in the game, Val's flush should take the game.
Jack raised by five.

Character(s): The Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post: Let sleeping rats lie

The rat was still sleeping. No dreams floated through his rodent brain. For the first time in a long while, the rat was perfectly at peace.
A snake, smelling the rat, was working its way up the pipe. It had been two months since its last meal and it was hungry. If all went well, the snake would soon have a full belly.
The serpent rounded the corner and smelled the rat. By the sound of its breathing the snake could tell it was asleep. Good, an easy meal. The snake slithered up to the rat; one bite and it would be over. It lunged back ready to strike.
Suddenly, a fierce yellow glow burst forth from the rat's belly. It struck the snake under the jaw, disintegrating its head. The rest of the serpent's body followed like ashes falling from a cigarette. The rat didn't even stir.
Sometime later, the rat awoke. He supposed it was sometime after dawn. He wanted to find Jack and the rest of the Rat Pack. He didn't know why, he just needed to.
With this purpose in mind, the rat took off down the pipe in a direction directly opposite to where the Rat Pack were staying.

Character(s): Ebreth in the Library with the Archmage
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Waiting For The Storm
Title of Post: Deja Vu

Ebreth was really starting to hate this library.
He sat down and waited to be grilled about this morning.

Character(s): Alphred and the rest of the poker faces
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Rat Kings: Ya know when to fold em
Title of Post: Never play poker with a jungle king

Alphred thought he was starting to get the hang of this game.
"Give me two," said Val.
"One here," said Skitch.
"Alphred?" asked Jack.
Alphred looked hard at his cards. "None."
"Are you sure?" Jack asked him. If he was correct, Alphred should have been holding a worthless hand.
"Yes. None for me."
"Ok."
Jack dealt the cards and the wagering started again.
"I raise 5," said Val.
"Fold," said Skitch, obviously annoyed.
"I see 5," said Alphred. "Then I raise 5."
Jack raised his eyebrow at this. What was Alphred up to?
"It is 10 to me," said Jack. "I see the 10."
"And I see the 5," said Val.
"What does everyone have?"
"Two queens and two eights," said Val.
"Three jacks here," said Jack. "Alphred?"
Alphred squinted at his cards then laid them down.
"Four kings."
"What?!" said Jack.
He looked at the cards. Yep, they were four kings. Maybe Alphred was better at this game than he thought.

Character(s): Hyix
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Mind Games
Title of Post: Something approaches

Its name was Hyix. It was the identical twin/offspring of the thing which now called itself Xyr but recently was Xyrhyix. During their splitting, Xyr told Hyix what he needed to do. Xyr was going to learn more about this Zzenith thing. Hyix was going to finish the purpose for which they were brought into existence.
Hyix moved quickly from the tavern. He knew that the purpose was only a rotation or two away. He had to be there at the right time. It was his sole purpose for existing.

Character(s): The Rat Pack, poker fiends
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Nosy People and the Sisters Who Hate to Love Them

"Vas," Valende said.
"I'm in for five," Vas said, leaning backwards further in his chair, to bring his ears closer to the wall between him and the library. Ariath pushed five of his chips into the pot.
"Not what I meant, Vas."
Vas sighed. "I can't hear anything anyway." He hooked his ankle around the table leg and pulled his chair to tilt at a less precarious-- and less informative-- angle. Skitch stared in astonishment at Valende, who was glaring at her brother. It was the first time he'd ever seen her glare. Khyrisse did it better, because she was pissier, but Skitch still wouldn't want to be Vas right now.
Vas met her eyes for a moment. He sighed softly and turned his attention to his cards.
Ariath reached over with her free hand and fluffed his bangs. "After this hand, I think I'm going to go for a swim. Anyone else interested?" she asked with a smile. Vas cheered up remarkably quickly. Valende sighed softly and turned her attention to her cards.


Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Jack Counts Cards

The tension in the room was getting worse.
Jack tried to distract himself by counting out the cards as he laid them down.
"Swim time!" Ariath grinned cheerily, sliding out of the robe and revealing the bikini.
Forty-eight, forty-nine, well, this is going to be an easy hand, fifty...
Vas stood up. "I've got to, uh, go... uh..."
"Try the pool!" Ari offered.
Vas was already heading off.
Val glowered at his back.
Fifty-one, fifty-two, it's going to get ugly here shortly, isn't it, fifty-three...
Fifty-three?
There were fifty-six cards in the deck.
"Okay, someone's been adding cards," Jack sighed.
Alphred looked innocently at the fox totem sitting next to him.
"Are you accusin' me o' cheatin'?" Asinus asked.
"Uncle Asinus, you're not even playing."
"I know. I just like that accent."
"I'm out of here," Val said, stomping off.
"I need to go... commune," Alphred said, grabbing the totem and running off.
Jack looked around. "Right. Supportive boyfriend time," he laid down the cards and followed Val at a distance.
Janice was left in the room with Asinus.
"I've got to, uh, like... go do something." She raced out.
Asinus chomped at his cigar. "Hey, butler! Get some more of those cheese puffs in here!"

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Not What Ebreth Expects, For a Change

Khyrisse leaned against the edge of the desk, too nervous to sit down. Plus, she could keep an eye on the door from here. If anybody sneaked in here this time, she was going to hit the ceiling. After hitting them. She twisted her hands together, the black leather of the men's glove on her left hand pleating under her fingers.
"Um, Ebreth... I wanted to apologize for the way I was acting this morning," she said softly, looking down at her hands. She was going to be red to the points of her ears as it was before this was over. She didn't need to help it along by watching his expression. "I think I sort of gave you the wrong impression. That, um," her mouth quirked in amusement, "'going ice princess on your ass', it-- it wasn't you. I was... really embarrassed by what happened in the Pyramid. As for the rest of it, well... I always seem to run into my ex at the worst times, and my nerves have been a little shot this past month." She took a deep breath. Her face felt like it had been scalded. Some of that had to be glowing through the stoneskin. Goddamn translucent alabaster. "Anyway, I'd like to start over, because I hate the way we've been acting towards each other ever since," she finished simply, risking a glance up at him through her eyelashes.

Character(s): The Not-So-Wonder Twins
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Turbulence

Valende and Vas stood in the upstairs hallway, whispering fiercely at each other, Valende's hand on Vas' arm. "Vas, you and I both promised--"
"Valende, which is the greater sin? Breaking my oath or denying my nature? Would you like me as a monk?" His eyes pleaded with her to understand. "This is different."
Valende shook off his hand impatiently. "Oh, Vas, no it is not, I have seen you do this a thousand times!"
"I am genuinely fond of the girl. Truly."
"You," Valende said softly, "are fond of everyone."
Vas sighed. "Valende... I am deeply sorry about what happened. But if I think about it every moment of the day, I will go mad."
"I'm not asking you to! I just don't understand why you seem so incapable of a little... constancy!"
Vas tilted his head and looked at her in mild amusement, as if she had said she didn't understand why the sun wasn't black.
Valende made an impatient exclamation and turned away.
"Valende." She stopped, but did not turn back to face him. "I am sorry."
"And your passenger?" she whispered. "Is he sorry as well? Would you care to ask him?"
Vas rocked backwards as if Valende had struck him, and the blood drained out of his face in a rush. "Was he--"
"I don't know. You're the only one who knows that." Valende wrapped her arms around herself and walked away down the hallway.
Vas sat down suddenly on the bench behind him and covered his eyes, feeling the tips of his fingers tremble against his skin.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
Title of Post: Jack Asks Pack Backtrack

Jack knocked on Val's door.
"Val? It's me... uh, Jack."
There was no answer.
Jack shifted from one foot to the other. Val seemed upset, but Jack was always taught not to go into someone's room unless invited. Fortunately, a moment later, Jack heard a very quiet, "Come in."
Jack pushed the door open. Val was laying on her bed, her back to the entrance. Jack shuffled in and shut the door behind him. "Uh, want to talk about it?"
"No," Val whispered. Her posture was calm, but the rapid intakes of breath indicated to Jack that she was crying.
"Oh. Okay." Jack sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand tentatively on Val's shoulder. After a moment, she put her hand up to his. "I, uh, you know you don't have to, um, tell me anything you don't, ah, want to... but sometimes it helps to talk. At least, that's what people tell me."
Val rolled over and looked at Jack. "Who told you that," she grinned through her tears.
"Um, Ebreth did, but that's not really the point." Val chuckled, then remembered her sadness, and the smile faded again. "I just want you to know that I'm here for you, even if it's just to sit and stammer foolishly at you while you cry."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Pair Up Or Go To Hell
Title of Post: Embarrassing Ourselves

"Okay," he assured her. "No problem. I'm very good at starting over." She smiled shakily at him. Ebreth paused. He had to know. "Why does this upset you so much, Khyrisse?" he said. "Look at you. You're bright red under there. What's so embarrassing? So you kissed Jack. You can't still be embarrassed over that, can you?"
"You'd be surprised," she whispered, touching her cheek with her hand.
"I don't believe you're blushing because you kissed Jack this morning. Now come on." He hesitated, and tapped his first two fingers against his other wrist. "Is it really that awful," he said, "being attracted to me? I mean." He held up his hand to cut off what she had been going to say. "I mean... I remember years of that first Ebreth Tor, you know, and I know what a woman looks like when she's attracted to someone she really wishes she wasn't. Don't you like me, even a little?" He turned his shoulder on her, wincing. This was not at all what he'd been intending to say.

Character(s): Valende and Jack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (with help from Evan Haag)
Storyline: Rat Kings: Going to Hell Anyway...
Title of Post: No Fearstone Required

Valende chuckled again. "Well, that's honest."
Jack grinned a little at her. "That's me, foolish but honest. Really, though."
Valende's emerald eyes sparkled with fresh tears as she looked at him. "Jack, you don't want to hear this."
"Would it help? Do you want to tell me?"
"No, but I probably should," she sighed, sitting up so she was facing him. She swept her free hand over her cheekbones, wiping tears away. "You told me something that you didn't want to, that you thought would make me not like you. It's only fair."
"I-- I don't think there's anything you could tell me that would make me not like you, Val," Jack said. "I know that you wouldn't do anything like that intentionally. Everyone makes mistakes."
"Not like this," Valende whispered painfully. Jack didn't really know what to say, so he just held her hand and waited for Val to tell him... whatever it was.
"You know," she said suddenly, "I never thought about it, but you probably weren't affected by the Madness, were you?"
"Well... um, not really," Jack confessed. "I, um, didn't mention it because..."
"I know." Valende smiled at him, then sighed again. "My brother and I had... some warning of what was going to happen." Jack got the creepy feeling that Valende had just leaped over a large amount of ugliness, right there, with a single tactful phrase. "I managed to plane shift us both into a borderline dimension. Not really of this world, but not really unconnected to it, either. It's a bridge more than a plane of its own, one that the elves use when they leave the mortal realms." Jack nodded, not really sure what this had to do with anything. Valende took a deep breath. "So my brother and I should have been only partially affected by the Madness. I--I don't know if we were. I have... incomplete memories of what happened during those four days, but what I remember..." She shut her eyes tightly.
Jack squeezed her hand in a comforting way. "It's okay!"
"No, it's not. There was a large town nearby, and some of their people ran away, and got lost in the forest that our gate-plane mapped onto... and Vas and I... hunted them," Valende finished in an utterly shamed whisper. "Like wolves would rabbits. For being human and 'invading' our territory. I murdered over a dozen unarmed, terrified people out of some sort of senseless bigotry." Jack blinked at her for a moment in surprise, and Valende gently pulled her hand out of his grasp. Not looking at him anymore, she sighed, and wrapped her arms around her knees. "There's more, I'm afraid."
"O--okay."
"Jack, I'll understand if you don't want to see me after this," Valende said steadily. "I should have told you earlier... I know that the human societies regard this sort of thing more sternly than the elven ones do. But Vas and I... We-- we slept with each other." She sighed heavily. "When we regained our senses, after the Madness was over, we both decided that we should... restrain ourselves from now on, that our rather passionate natures had led us into this behavior. We both took an oath to avoid such things in the future. And now Vas, flighty as ever, has changed his mind and is going after Ariath. It's as if nothing happened. I can't forget as easily as Vas can, that's all, I suppose. I should be glad he's healing so quickly." Valende put her forehead to her knees. "I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't want to burden you with this, and I didn't want to tell you for fear of your reaction. But I suppose I should have. Please forgive me."


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