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The Rat King Archives
Khyrisse, a fool twice over
The Darknesses Love Can Transform, Part II
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
of Post: Continuing to Embarrass Ourselves
Khyrisse blinked at him. "Oh." A
lot of things were suddenly making sense about Ebreth and the way he'd been
behaving. "Um, no, that's not it
at all," she said, with a wry little laugh at her own expense.
"Ebreth, if you had been there on the dais with me when that spell hit, I
wouldn't have stopped. They could have marched the Cynystran army through that
room, and I wouldn't have cared."
She grinned a little at the mental image, and ducked her head, pinching
the bridge of her nose with her gloved hand.
"What I've been afraid of isn't you at all. It's of getting hurt
again. I feel rather more strongly about you than is comfortable, in a lot of
ways, and it's been, what, a week? I admire you, I find it astonishing that you
can go through what you have and still laugh-- not like you? You must be out of
your everloving mind, Ebreth Tor."
Jack and Valende
Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm/Ditty About Jack and Valende
of Post: Jack Makes A Promise
"Um," Jack said.
"I knew it. I never should
have..." Val started.
"No, no!" Jack said. "I'm
umming because I'm checking my math."
Val squinted and frowned. "I spill my
ugliest secrets and you're thinking about math?"
"Oh. Right. No, I've actually had
this theory, but I haven't really gotten a chance to check it. It's about the
Val continued to glare.
Jack continued. "Okay, look, I'm an
artificial being, sort of, so I know what I'm talking about. There are
certain... variables... that make up people's personalities. That's why people
are, uh, different. From each other, I mean."
"No, hear me out! What the Madness
did was a direct mathematical inversion of a variety of those personality
variables." Jack paused. "What I'm saying is, mathematically, the
Madness only made people act as bad as they really are good."
"That's nice, Jack, but it doesn't
explain things. I did the things I did."
"And you're punishing yourself for
them... but you don't need to, Val."
"Yes, I do," she whispered.
"I don't think so," Jack said.
"You've got one of the biggest hearts I've ever encountered, Val. But if
the lesson you learn is that your passion is bad, then you're throwing out the
baby with the bathwater. Your love for life makes you special, makes you able
to do things that lesser spirits couldn't imagine, let alone achieve. Don't
lose that just because it got twisted by someone else's evil. Am I making any
sense or am I speaking Diarian here?"
"Um, that wasn't exactly what I meant
by passion, Val. You're really hurting right now, and that's not a good time
Val folded her arms. "Of
course," she sighed. "I knew things couldn't be the same."
"No, but we can try to keep moving
on. They only stay the same if you hold on to your pain."
"Did Ebreth tell you that?"
"No, I read that on a matchbook
"Look, Valende," Jack said,
taking her shoulders and staring into her eyes. "I can't promise to
understand everything you went through, but I can promise to be here for you
from this point forward. To listen, to share, to support you in whatever you
"Jack... I don't deserve..."
"You don't deserve to go on hurting,
Val. No matter what goes on with us, I want you to know that you've always got
a shoulder to cry on and a friend for whatever you need. Just promise me that
you'll ask from time to time."
Rat Kings: Pair Up Or Go To Hell
of Post: Much Less Poetic Than Jack Paris
"The Cynystran army," Ebreth
pointed out, softly, his fingertips turning her wrist, "is not here
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Pair Up Or Go To Hell
of Post: What This Says About the Value of Poetry, I'm Not Sure
Khyrisse shivered a little, and her eyes
flew up to meet Ebreth's, for the first time that day.
She studied his face for a long moment,
her expression serene for once; the strain that normally sharpened her features
was oddly absent. Her eyes seemed catlike, taking up half of her face, violet
and gold. She reached up and ran her fingertips lightly down the side of his
face, from the corner of an astonishingly blue eye down to his jawline. Then
she smiled a little, and pushed Ebreth gently back onto the sofa.
"No," she said softly. "For
once, nobody is."
She pointed at the door without looking at
it, and it locked itself audibly in a flare of amber light.
"And nobody's going to be,
either," she added with a quiet little laugh.
She knelt next to Ebreth on the sofa, one
hand on his shoulder, and kissed the hell out of him.
Ariath the Distracting
Rat Kings: Pair Up Or Go To Hell
of Post: One Down, Two To Go
"I am not prurient!" Vas protested.
"I'm just concerned."
"I'm her bodyguard. And Val's in no
state to guard her. What if an undead thing attacked them?"
"I know how to be discreet--"
"Vas." Ariath grabbed him by the
hair. "Shut up and kiss me."
Valende and Jack
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Pair Up Or Go To Hell
of Post: We're Paired! We're Just Being Sensible About It!
Valende walked back into the room, shaking
her head. Jack looked up from his
Astronomy book. "Something wrong?"
Valende sat down near him and sighed.
"Vas is... missing."
"Busy and missing."
Jack thought about this. "Oh."
"What about Khyrisse?"
"She doesn't need bodyguarding at the
moment," she said, in a much lighter tone. She smiled at Jack in an amused
"Oh." Jack blushed a little, but
Valende leaned back on the bed and sighed
again. "Vas still bothers me, I'm afraid. He never seems to base any of
his behavior on things that have happened to him... he never sees any need to
change his behavior," she said quietly, staring into the fire. "He
just keeps making the same mistakes and laughing them off... Not even this last
mistake fazed him..."
Jack blinked at her. "Ariath?"
Valende laughed and rested her head on his
shoulder, still staring into the fire. "No, I have no problems with
Ariath, per se, dear. I meant the Madness. That should have changed his
"You can't worry about what Vas
chooses to do or not do, Val," Jack pointed out gently. "He has to
make his own decisions. You should concentrate on what you want to do
Valende sighed again, but tilted her head
back and smiled up at him anyway. "You have an excellent point. At least
that way, when Vas gets in trouble again, I can help him get out of it,"
she said, with a chuckle, and sat up again. "Well, I have made one
"I think," she said soberly,
looking down at her hands, clasped in her lap, "that it would be best if I
gave up men."
Jack looked a little depressed, but nodded
firmly. "Well, if you think you should, then I'll help you do that,
"Oh, I doubt it." Valende peeked
up at him. "See, I find that mathematical equations are much more
fun," she said, and grinned like a pixie.
the Rat Pack
Rat Kings: Calm Before the Storm
of Post: Bedtime at Rat Pack Manor
Hours later, people were in beds.
Khyri was still in the library with
Ebreth, and even Skitch didn't know what they were up to.
Vas and Ariath had headed up to Vas' room,
and the noises that you didn't need Tila to detect told the story pretty well.
Ariath was, apparently, a screamer.
Asinus was snoring through a lit cigar.
Skitch was laying in a hammock outside the
library, reading the same line in his spell book again and again, but not
paying any attention to it at all.
Alphred slept uneasily in the arboretum
under the totem of the sloth.
Fred dreamt of pools of fire and an imp
who called him "sir."
Janice stared up at the stars, alone, and
no one knew what voices ran through her head.
Somewhere, the Rat slept, with the prayers
of several concerned people watching over it.
And the hushed voice of Jack Paris could
be heard from behind the door of his room.
"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from
behind," Jack read to Valende, curled up next to him in the bed.
he whispered." "'Yes, Piglet?'" "'Nothing,' said Piglet,
taking Pooh's paw. 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'"
of Post: Some Unique Maternal Advice
Shannon sighed. "Well, he swore to me
he'd not kill Deirdre, and I did believe him. I knew he'd kill
that I'd care after the way that man's been treatin' me these days--I knew he'd
take good care of the country, but Brytannwch is not Cynystra. After all I'd
lost for our freedom. Could all that be in vain? And I did think, I had such a
longin' to save him for her. I did think it might ease my heart. Beware of men,
child. They'll always ask you for that one thing you wouldna sacrifice yourself
to give them, and you'll end up destroyin' the both of you. Ah, baby." She
struck an earthworm clean in half with her trowel. "The most effective spy
on Ataniel and I'm tendin' vegetables in the dirt. Stay away from men, Siobhan.
Find yourself a friend and never go back on her. Do you not let your hungers
get the best of you."
Octavian, Flanders, and some typical Rimbor cops
Evan Haag and Kristin L.K. Andersen
of Post: What Octavian's Been Up To Lately
It was closing time, and Flanders gave a
sigh of relief. It had been a long day; better than yesterday, but that wasn't
saying much. He shuddered at the memory of yesterday, convinced that taking
money from Ebreth Tor would come back to haunt him.
He was about to close up and leave for
dinner, when two gentlemen walked in. At least, he thought they were gentlemen,
until he saw the Rimbor Police tunics they wore under their day-cloaks. As they
closed the door behind them, the larger one put the "Closed" sign up
in the window.
"Evening, Flanders," said the
older one, in a mock-friendly voice. "How's business been today?"
swallowed hard. His till was just enough to get him fed for the evening-- and
not very well, either. "Slow, actually," he said, trying hard not to
sound nervous. He hoped they were just checking in, and that they wouldn't take
"That's a shame. Guy like you, he
needs business. Things are awfully expensive in Rimbor, these days." The
officer smirked, as his partner wandered semi-aimlessly around the tiny shop.
Flanders groaned inwardly, knowing what
was coming next. Looks like I'll be eating gruel tonight, or maybe shoe
leather. He began to stammer out something as the cop grabbed his shirtfront,
but was distracted by the front door opening.
The gentleman silhouetted in the doorway
was wearing a heavy traveling cloak, and carried a walking stick in his left
hand. His clothing was difficult to see under the cloak, and his face was
concealed in the shadows of the hood.
"Pardon me, sir, but do you have
anything in a fancy riding boot?"
The larger of the two officers moved
toward the door, saying, "Can't you
read? The sign said the place is closed. Now get lost, before we take
you in for trespassing."
As he got close to the stranger, there was
a brief flash of movement from beneath the cloak. The cop stopped short in his
tracks, as he discovered the slim blade of a sword-cane scant inches from his
throat. The older cop turned around, letting go of Flanders' tunic, and
Flanders could see his hand slowly reaching for the dagger tucked into the back
of his belt.
The stranger spoke again. "From the
number of customers, I assumed that this shop was still conducting business.
But of course, how stupid of me. Police in this part of the world don't bother
with buying things." He gestured briefly towards the counter with the
blade, which the cop in front of him ignored.
The older cop snarled at him, "Do you
have any idea how much trouble you're asking for? If you're smart, you'll take
off before you get hurt... or worse." His hand was still inching slowly
towards the dagger, and he briefly flashed a menacing glance at Flanders.
Flanders knew that if he said anything now, the dagger would be sticking out of
him, and not the stranger.
"Worse? What could be worse than
living in Rimbor, with our police force treating us like slaves? Oh no, my
friend, I don't think you could do anything to me that I would consider 'worse'
than that." He motioned again with the tip of his sword, and stepped
closer to the big cop. A flick of the blade placed a the shallowest of cuts in
the skin of his throat. Taking the hint, the officer started to move slowly
towards the counter and his partner.
Suddenly, the older cop's hand whipped
around from behind his back, neatly tossing a dagger at the stranger's chest.
The stranger grasped the edge of his cloak and whipped it upward, shrouding his
form. The dagger disappeared into the folds of the cloak, then clattered to the
ground. The cloak settled gently back down over the stranger, who shook his
head in disapproval at the two officers.
"My, my, officer; such ill-considered
violence. Is that what they're teaching you at the station these days? That's
more of an assassin's trick than a peace-keeper's." He stepped forward
with purpose. "Let me show you the proper way to keep the peace."
Flanders ducked behind the counter, not
wanting to become any more involved in this than he already was. He heard the
sounds of fighting clearly, but it seemed like the stranger was doing most of
the work. After a few moments the sounds stopped, and he could hear the
stranger's voice call out.
"You can come out now, Flanders. The
officers are... off duty." As Flanders poked his head nervously over the
counter, he could see the two policemen piled on top of each other,
unconscious. Both of them had shallow wounds criss-crossing their faces, and
the older one seemed to be missing an ear.
The stranger was wiping off his blade, and leaned on the counter facing
"A-are they... dead?" Flanders
"No, more's the pity." From the
sound of the stranger's voice, he wasn't even winded.
groaned and held his head. "Do you have any idea what they're going to do
to me?" he said, before he could stop himself. "They're never going
to believe I had nothing to do with this! I'm a dead man!"
"You would have been dead within
days, regardless," the stranger said, sheathing the blade with a soft
click. "It wouldn't have taken them long to discover that the Slaver King
had visited this store, and there are certain parties in the police department
that are very interested in that gentleman's activities. The only thing that
has saved you from being taken in for 'questioning' thus far is their
Flanders swallowed hard, eyes like
saucers. "How did you know Lord Tor was here?" he whispered.
"Who are you?"
"I am Octavian." The stranger
leaned forward over the counter, and Flanders was pinned by his intense gaze.
The face under the hood was nondescript, but the eyes burned with an unnatural
light. "What happened between you and Ebreth Tor, shopkeeper? Why was he
"Nothing! He-- he bought a pair of
boots. He had some people with him, this blonde elf and her kid--"
"He bought a pair of boots,"
Octavian repeated incredulously. Flanders looked terrified, and could only nod
fervently. An undefinable tension drained out of the stranger's form, and he
laid a hand gently on the counter. "Peace, Flanders," he said,
sounding slightly amused. "That confirms certain things I have heard about
Lord Tor of late-- I am convinced." Flanders exhaled noisily. "Now,
there is still the problem of this offal behind me. They will return, you are
correct... but you are no longer alone."
Flanders looked at Octavian in disbelief.
Sure, he had been hearing stories from other merchants, and from a few of his
customers, but he had never ever seen Octavian's work. Now, all of a sudden, he
had Octavian as a protector! He opened his mouth to thank the mysterious
vigilante, but he was stopped by a raised gauntlet.
"Before you say 'Thank you' or
something like it, I would like to dispel any illusions that you may have. I
will not act as your sole protector. While I have some concern for your
property and your safety, you are but one merchant, and I am needed all across
Flanders was stunned, and didn't quite
know how to react. He decided to keep quiet as Octavian continued.
"When I said you are no longer alone,
however, I meant it. You are now part
of a growing...fraternity, if you will. It is now up to you as to
whether you will be an active part of that fraternity. This fraternity is made
up of citizens like yourself who are unwilling to endure the current regime's
strongarm tactics any longer." At this point, he took a small slip of
paper out of his belt. "Here is the name of one of them. He will be able to
tell you what you can do, alone or with others, to regain your freedom. Don't
even think of tipping this name to the police; trust me, I'll know."
Octavian then turned around to leave,
whistling a popular tune. Immediately, two large men came in through the door and
started to pick up the unconscious officers. Flanders was sure he recognized
one of them as the bouncer at the Deflowered Damsel, the local bar.
As Octavian reached the door, he turned
and flashed Flanders a slight grin. "By the way, I was serious about those
boots. I prefer something with a subtle embossing, perhaps in a dark blue.
Could you see about that for me?"
Flanders could only nod vacantly as he
watched Octavian and his henchman vanish into the night.
The police officers were not amused to
find themselves stripped naked and dumped, still unconscious, on the steps of
the RCPD Headquarters. They and two of their chortling friends were pounding on
Flanders' door early the next morning.
"He's not gonna answer, you
jerk," the older cop snarled, yanking his buddy out of the way. Their two
companions stood nearby, obviously more there for the show than to actually
help. He put his shoulder to the door and forced it open, breaking the lock.
The four policemen moved into the store-- and paused, looking around. The store
was empty, but undisturbed; the mess caused by the fight had been cleaned up.
"What gives? If I were him, I'd be
halfway to the mainland by now," muttered the large man with the cuts on
his face. He looked behind the counter. "The books're still here and
A noise from behind them caused all four
of the officers to turn in surprise. A crowd of men, armed with cudgels,
pokers, shortswords, and daggers, had filed silently into the room behind them,
and were now blocking the shop's only exit. At the head of the column was the
fat cobbler, Flanders, holding a leatherworker's awl and hammer in his fists.
Flanders cleared his throat. "We
don't much appreciate the way you thugs have been throwing your weight around.
This is our city, too, and we're not gonna be treated like criminals and slaves
any more." As he finished speaking, the crowd of angry citizens closed in
on the four officers.
Jack Paris, Rat Pack
Rat Kings: Showdown
of Post: Rats In The Morning
The rosy sphere circled around the magical
house for some time, unable to enter. Finally, as morning approached, the door
opened. One of the marked ones came out.
"Get the hell out of my way, ya flarking
Jeeves," the ass bellowed. "Unless you got some stables in here, you
don't want me around for a few minutes."
A donkey bearing the sigil wandered into
The rosy sphere flew at it, popping into
its head. The ass' eyes glazed over, and he turned and wandered back to the
"I need to get back in."
"I just let you out," Sennett
"I have important business,"
"Yes, and as you explained to me, it
would be best if you did it outside."
The thing inside Asinus' head sighed. It
wished the damn butler had been marked. Besides, there was a strange discomfort
in the ass' hind end. "Tell Khyrisse I know where the Rat is now."
"Is that the whole message?"
"And that she's got one hell of a
cute tush, and she's missing out on the joys of hot donkey love."
The thing inside Asinus' head didn't know
where that had come from.
"I'll... get her the gist of the
message," Sennett said, and slammed the door.
Then the sphere realized what the strange
discomfort was. Too late. This sort of thing would never happen if I was a lich
lord, it thought.
It waited for the Rat Pack to come. It had
a trap to lead them into, and not much
time to do it.
Khyrisse, Skitch, and Valende
Kristin L.K. Andersen
Rat Kings: Showdown
of Post: Hell? Where's That?
Khyrisse sat in a corner of the breakfast
room, studying her spellbook with a serene little smile on her face, drinking
coffee. Skitch sat across a small table from her, studying his own spell book
and kicking the table leg. Occasionally Khyrisse reached out with a muted grin
and kicked the table leg on her side, knocking the abused piece of furniture
back into place and prompting a chuckle from her apprentice.
Valende smiled at the din coming from that
corner of the room. "Are we almost ready to leave?"
"Yes, I think so," Khyrisse
replied absently. "I don't know if everyone that wants it has had
breakfast, though. Where's Vas?"
Valende rolled her eyes and nodded towards the stairs. Sennett appeared
and cleared his throat. "Yes?" Khyrisse asked.
"The elder Mr. Paris would like me to
inform you that he knows where the missing Rat is. And it appears you have an
admirer in the elder Mr. Paris..."
"I can just imagine," Khyrisse
said with a mildly amused smile. "Just ignore the rest of it, Sennett, and
see if you can find the rest of our guests. Time to 'rock and roll',
kiddo," she added, kicking the table leg one last time.
Skitch slammed his book closed, hooting.
"Think we'll see Janus today?" he asked, leaning across the table and
pilfering Khyrisse's remaining bagel.
"I'm supposed to know? I just work
The Rat Pack
Rat Kings: Showdown
of Post: Guess Where We Get To Go?
Everyone had gathered in the lobby.
Ariath and Vas looked a bit tired, but
other than that, people looked eager to have done with this King of Kings once
and for all.
"The King of Kings must die!"
Fred cried, making sure that everyone knew his position on the matter.
"Asinus," Khyrisse sighed,
"you say you know where the Rat is?"
"Oh, yes!" Asinus leered.
"That knowledge has entered my head. But not like in an evil way. No, not
"Uncle Asinus, are you all
right?" Jack asked.
"I'm fine," Asinus said.
"And I'm not possessed by the Collector, either."
The rosy sphere seemed to be having some
trouble with this particular minion. The donkey's mind was so dirty and
disorganized, it was hard to keep complete control without touching all sorts
of things that the sphere's mother had warned him about.
"Val?" Khyrisse asked.
Val muttered a prayer to her absent god,
and looked up. "I can't quite tell. That sigil interferes with my
"If we really want to be sure he's
possessed, we could just give him Lucas," Ebreth suggested
light-heartedly. The grimness that had occupied his face yesterday was gone.
"Not funny," Vas said, yawning.
"There is a storm drain outside of
town. We can head in there, and it will lead to the King of King's magnificent
"I like him better this way,"
Khyrisse whispered to Skitch.
"Follow me outside of the mansion,
fools," Asinus said. "Then when we get home, it's orgy time."
Jack covered his face in embarrassment. He
would almost rather face Gabriella than hang out with Uncle Asinus much more.
"Coming?" the ass asked.
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