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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 IV

Character(s): Odn
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Epilogue
Title of Post: An Epilogue

Odn watched the mess through the stone of scrying.
"I was afraid something like this might happen," he said to a small caterpillar inside a glass jar sitting on a shelf. "That's why I wanted to make sure that lichdom wasn't the right path to take to gain my eventual immortality."
"Let me out of here, you fool!" the caterpillar squeaked. "Free me and I will help you rule the world!"
"I'm sorry, Doctor," Odn said. "The clone you supplied me with was all I needed of you. I just wanted you around to help me destroy it... if its plan worked."
"Freeee meeee!" the caterpillar cried.
"Which," Odn continued, oblivious, "it didn't. I should have known never to trust a lichling. Are you sure there wasn't some degradation of intelligence?"
"My clones are guaranteed to be perfect!" the caterpillar squeaked.
"Then I'm afraid it's on to plan ten," Odn sighed. "As soon as I clean up that demon ash."
"Some villain you are," the swankerpillar muttered. "Next thing you know, you'll be giving those damn heroes wishes or something."
"Responsibility, my dear Doctor, is the watchword of the greatest of mages. Besides, since the Rat King was severed before the Vision manifested, the ash is little more than a nuisance. The simplest of spells will clean it up."
"Next time, I sell to Arturian," the caterpillar grumbled.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Denouement
Title of Post: Smoke and Ashes

The chamber rocked and was still. Ebreth looked around dizzily at the crater where the Vision had landed, at the smoking dust that had once been ten thousand dead rats, at the blackened walls, at the smear the blob had made when it exploded. He looked at Khyrisse and he looked at the rat. He walked unsteadily across to the fallen body of the beast and he shook it. "Can--you go to Hell for killing a beast?" he asked, of nobody in particular.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings Epilogue
Title of Post: Afterthoughts

"Did anyone get the name of the truck that hit me?" Warp asked, his voice modulator wavering oddly.
"You're Janus?" Khyrisse demanded.
"Heh. Master of the five elements, that's--ngh!--me. Hey, can I get a cleric over here?"

***
"I'm not dead," the Beast muttered.
"Oh." Ebreth wasn't sure to be happy or worried.
"I need to find Grimthane Darkcloak," the beast said, still groggy from channeling necrotic energy.
"Wrong party," Ebreth said.


***
"Val? Is that you?" the voice of Jack Paris said into her ear.
Valende adjusted the microphone. "Yes, dear. I'm here."
"Uh, remember what I said about a shoulder to cry on? Can you take that metaphorically?"
Valende cried in joy and sorrow.

***
"So can we get Tarrin now?" Skitch demanded.

Character(s): Fred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: A Horse Is A Horse
Title of Post: Fulfillment

"The King of Kings is dead!" cried Fred, with unbridled joy.
He paused a moment, and his brow furrowed. "Now, if I were only a pit fiend," he sighed.

Character(s): Khyrisse, dazed and confused
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Shoot Me Now, Please?
Title of Post: I Don't Know, That's Why I'm In Charge

Khyrisse sat down hard. She looked at her hand (nothing wrong with it, now-- and she couldn't be sure that anything had been wrong with it), then to the northwest (nothing but blackened wall, really), and finally at Skitch. She blinked through the rain that was pouring down through the hole in the ceiling. "Can I catch my breath first?" she asked him faintly. She jumped as a lightning bolt hit something up above them in Bannin. "Just what the hell happened here?"

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Debriefing
Title of Post: Skitch Summarizes

"Uh," said Skitch, "well, I think our sigils forced us to bring Jack here, and then Jack did something that zorched the undead thing, and then Jack and Odn disappeared, and then Ebreth rescued the Rat, while Janus fought the blob, and the evil asteroid crashed, and all the rats blew up, and
Ebreth hit the beast with the mithril dagger, and Jack and Odn came back but Odn's dead and Jack's turned into Lodwar, and that's it, I'm out of fingers."

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: I Ain't Got No Body...

"If Robinson were alive, I'd have no problem," Jack said. "But there's something that got messed up at the Nexus of Space and Time... I can't seem to reform my body."
"You know that's not the most important thing, Jack," Val said into the microphone. She felt strange wearing the weird headset, but it at least allowed her to be there for Jack.
"No, the most important thing is that I'm not floating in the orbit of Saturn." Jack forced a laugh. "Thank you, Val."
"Man, I hope they did it last night," Vas whispered to Ariath.


Character(s): Asinus Paris
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Debriefing
Title of Post: Irrepressible

"Hey, chickie, you look like your nerves could use some soothing," said Asinus. "Have you noticed I'm not wearing any pants?"

Character(s): Warp, Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Orion's Belt, Rat Kings: Full Circle
Title of Post: The Secret Origin of Janus

They were back on Transit Station D36.
Warp had negotiated some sort of settlement with the Center to keep Orion away from Sol for the next twenty-eight years. Jack was glad. He didn't get angry at a lot of people, but he was angry at Orion.
For some reason, Jack couldn't reform his body. He could return home now, but he would be stuck in this stupid comlink. Valende, he thought. What never was... and now can't ever be...
Warp felt awful. It was his fault that Jack was now a Teddy Ruxpin doll without fur. There had to be something he could do to even the scales. Then it came to him. "Hey, Jack," he said into the microphone. "Do you know Rip Hunter?"
"I wish," sighed Jack. "But he's a god."
"Yeah, but he taught me a few things about time travel when we hung out together. I've got this cool idea..."
Jack couldn't see Warp's outfit, but he could hear the resonances from the voice distorter. It sounded just like Janus. "It's pretty easy, you see," Warp explained. "You tell me what the hardest challenges you faced were, and I go back and help out. It's already history to you. And Janus means 'two-faced' where I come from, so it's a perfect role to step into."
"He was an elementalist. You're a, uh... supreme hero."
"Superhero. And that's no problem. I open a warp to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean? Bam. Stream of water. I open a warp to the vacuum of space? Instant void. Piece of cake."
"He never shot a piece of cake."
"Uh, that was a..."
"I know. I'm trying to keep my spirits up in here."
"So, where to first?" Warp asked.
"Do you know where Rimbor City is?"
"Do I ever!" Warp said. "You'll be back home in no time, Jack."
Warp stepped out of Transit Station D36 and into the sewers of Rimbor City. And into the past...

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings: Debriefing
Title of Post: The State Of Jack Paris

Ebreth put his arm around Khyrisse and exhaled. "Val, can you heal the rat?" he said. "I had to cut his tail off again." Val took the rodent from him shakily. "Is Jack all right in there?"
"Yes," said Val. "He's just, his body's been destroyed."
"Disembodied spirit. Man, that sucks. Keep your spirits up, Paris, maybe we can find a soulless body to put you in."
"Did you do this?" Asinus demanded of Warp. "Who did this to Robinson's boy? The Paris family don't take these things lightly."
"I liked the body he had," said Val sorrowfully.


Character(s): Warp, Jack Paris, etc.
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Epilogues
Title of Post: Warp Heads Off To Start His Own Storyboard

"Look, donkey-boy, don't make me have to send you to, uh..." Warp searched for something appropriate to say. "Damn," he sighed. "Never a decent comeback when you need one."
"Jack wants to thank you for all that you've done," Val said.
"Hey, tell him it was no problem. Always nice to get in on some action back in the old stomping grounds."
"Why the big disguise, then?" Khyrisse asked. "I mean, why not just come in and say, 'hey, I'm Warp, and I've brought Jack back from the future to help out'?"
Warp looked hurt, and he pulled some shades from his pocket and put them on. "Because, um, I didn't want to create a, ah, paradox."
"You wanted us to guess, didn't you?" Khyrisse demanded.
"Well," Warp said, "I've still got to go find out what happened to Tessa, maybe check in on earth... gotta run..."
"I want an answer, dammit!" Khyrisse screeched.
"Say hi to Knighthawke if you see him!" Warp shouted, and stepped out of Ataniel.
"I hate him," Khyrisse sighed.
"Jack says not to worry, he's really a nice guy," Val offered.
"Man, why couldn't there have been another goddess that survived?"

Character(s): Warp
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Modern Day Ataniel Storyboarding Soon To Come
Title of Post: Two Youths in Search of a Mental Institution

Warp stepped out of his portal into an alley in Los Angeles.
Two youths gazed at him.
"Hey, guys," Warp said. "Don't mind me. Just passing through on my way to grand adventure on an epic scale."
Warp wandered out onto the streets of L.A.
"Man," one youth said to the other, "we need to straighten out."
"Rehab?"
"You're on."

Character(s): Luthien, Flicker, Norna, and her thralls
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: A Stormwatch Brewing

Luthien sat up with a start. The storm had come in suddenly, and had interrupted a very unpleasant nightmare. Not that the storm was really any better. He muttered a quick cantrip to keep his gear and body dry, and moved over to where Flicker was standing watch. "Wet night, huh, Luth?" Flicker said to him as he came over.
"Wetter than you or Norna predicted. I thought you said it was going to be crisp and clear for a couple of days."
"That's what the wind and the sky told me this morning." Flicker looked up at the angry storm clouds. "Unfortunately, they seemed to have learned how to lie."
Berryn joined the two heroes. "You know, I'm not one to give orders or anything, Boss; far from it. But don't you have a spell or something to shelter us from all this. Like that Mansion spell you used just outside of Neporris...?"
Luthien turned and glared at his would-be apprentice. "I wouldn't waste it on your new mistress. She doesn't deserve the hospitality."
Berryn took a startled step backward, and Luthien softened a bit. "I'm sorry, Berryn. It's not that I'm mad at you, or even that she had the...decency to give you a chance to keep living. Well, to keep moving, anyway. It's just that she treats you, Hronmir, Flicker, and me like we're nothing but pawns and toys, to be marched around and broken at her whim. It sickens me, and I'm very near the end of my very short rope."
Berryn grimaced comically. "I know whatcha mean, Boss, but there's nothing I can do. I can't even cast any spells. Whatever she did has sort of cut me off. I'm afraid I really wasn't cut out to be your apprentice."
Flicker interjected before Luthien could respond. "Nonsense. It's just that you got caught up in something that was a little out of your league. Trust me, if you get out of this intact, and Luthien can return to your mortal life, you are more than good enough to be his apprentice. Just keep the faith."
Berryn took this in, then grinned at Luthien and Flicker and wandered back to his place next to Norna.
"Thanks, Flicker," Luthien said in a lower tone. "I really hadn't thought of any response to that."
"De nada, Luth. I remember when..."
At that moment, a lightning bolt crashed down and destroyed a nearby tree, sending burning fragments hurtling towards the campsite. At the same time, Luthien fell to his knees and screamed an almost inhuman scream as blue lightning danced over his form and caused Flicker to jump back a few feet for safety's sake. Berryn ran over, followed closely by Hronmir and Norna. "What, has the necromancer finally wasted himself playing with his stupid spells?" asked Norna with her typical lack of grace. Flicker started to respond, but was cut off as Luthien suddenly rose, glared at Norna with enough fury to shut even her up, and soared off into the sky.
"Where the hell is he going, Messala?!" She whapped him on the back of the head, out of what was now reflex.
"How the hell should I know, Norn? You know, those whaps are really starting to get on my..."
>WHAP< "Like I care."
They watched the stormy sky as best they could, but the rain and darkness shrouded anything that might have been there. Moments later, a still-energized Luthien came hurtling to the ground, slamming into it with a force that would have made Diver hesitate. Norna went over, expecting to have to raise his sorry ass too, when he rose up from the small crater. She was briefly stunned to see him alive, then remembered his oh-so-annoying stoneskin spell. He walked past her, ignoring her demands to know what was going on, and went over to some trees. Flicker noticed that his eyes were an astonishing shade of blue, a sure sign that he had been (and still was) using wizard sight. He mumbled to himself, went through the somatic motions of a spell, and then stepped back as a shimmering portal appeared. He turned back to the group, and said in a shaky voice, "This is a safe haven for the night. We need one with this storm overhead, so please, everyone, after you."

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat Kings: Epilogues
Title of Post: Any More Loose Ends? What? There Are?

The Rat Pack trundled back to Bannin, weary but optimistic. Even the Rat seemed to be at peace for the first time since they had met him. The sigils were burned away, the Collector was gone, Odn was dead, and the necromantic energy was no more. Khyrisse chalked it up in the "victory" column.
Tharrfest seemed to be in full bloom when they returned. The stalls filled the streets, and the smells of spiced meats and vegetables filled the air. "I vote we celebrate," Khyrisse said. "It's been hard on all of us, and some down time seems just what the doctor ordered. Shall we all meet back here at sunset to meet for the mansion?"
"You know, I wonder if there are any magicians who might be able to get my body up and working," Jack said to Val.
"Jack wants to shop," Valende translated.
"I want to eat!" Skitch cried.
"I'd like to--uff!" Vas started, cut off by Ariath's elbow in his stomach.
"I'd like to uff, too," Asinus agreed. "Hey, mage-lady... wanna uff?"
"She's with me today," Ebreth Tor said, frowning at the donkey. "She's had enough travail today."
"I too wish to sample the beasts of this land in a direct fashion," Alphred offered.
"He wants to eat," Skitch explained.
"Okay, then, everyone," Khyrisse said. "Back at sunset."


***
"So, Khyri," Ariath asked as soon as Ebreth stepped away from them for a minute. "You. Ebreth... what happened?"
"I'd rather savor it before you all get it in your head to start mocking us," Khyrisse smiled diplomatically.
"Oh, you're no fun," Ariath sighed.
"Oh, wow!" Khyrisse said. "Is that a book store? I love book stores!" She rushed off down the road. Ariath puffed behind.
"Can't we ever shop anywhere fun?" the first-level mage demanded.
"Oh, bother," Khyrisse frowned. "Closed. These small, out-of the way stores are always the best. Why, once I found a first edition of..."
"Hey, look, there's Ebreth!"
Khyrisse turned to look. "Ebreth! We're down here! I found a great looking bookstore!"
Ebreth started down the small empty street.
That was when Khyrisse felt the knife that a small part of her still expected enter her back.
"Man, this is one bitchin' knife," Ariath said. "I'm glad Barry Spivot didn't need it anymore."
"Khyrisse!" Ebreth shouted, running towards the two women. Khyrisse slumped to the ground.
"Okay, Ebbie," Ariath said. "Your best protection's down. Time for business."
"You bitch!" Ebreth said, looking at Khyrisse's bleeding body.
"I made a deal with a very nice lady. If you go back to Hell, I stay out. Now, just for motivation's sake... if you do it willingly, I let Khyri live."
Ariath pulled a small red stone from her pocket and tossed it to Ebreth. It landed at his feet.
"Pick that up," Ariath said, running the knifepoint along Khyrisse's alabaster neck.
Ebreth picked it up. He looked around quickly, but there was no one in the vicinity.
"All you have to do is call Lilith's name with that in your hand," Ariath explained, "and you'll immediately be delivered to her and I'll disappear, never to bother angst-girl here again."
"And if I refuse?" Ebreth asked.
"If you refuse, she enjoys a new orifice."
"You are one cold bitch," Ebreth said, glaring.
"You know the saying. 'Never trust Ariath.' Now come on, we haven't got all day. The stone's in your court. Make your choice, Tor!"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Rat Kings: Epilogues
Title of Post: Three Times a Fool ('Cause Khyrisse Has Never Been a Lady)

Khyrisse crumpled into the muddy street at Ariath's feet, while the world lurched nauseatingly around her. The pain in her back felt like... she'd tried to describe it before this, actually, to Luthien, and failed; this was hardly the first time she'd been backstabbed...
It feels like my entire back is full of spikes of electrified broken glass, all radiating inward from that point-- hot and sharp and broken bits of things grating together and merely thinking about the spot makes me want to scream my head off.
What a marvelous time to finally come up with a description, Khyrisse added wryly to herself. A puff of laughter emerged, very faint, as she lay there on the pavement, sounding more like a sigh. The last of the rain was falling on her face in icy little splashes; mud was soaking into her hair at the back of her head, also very cold. Underneath her shoulder blades, however, was a rapidly spreading pool of warmth. The heat was oddly comforting against her back, because her arms and legs were freezing. Dying, then, she thought, eerily calm. Oh, merde, I can't see or hear properly anymore. I've already lost too much blood. What's going on?
"You bitch!"
The voice was far away and distorted. Khyrisse recognized it anyway. Ebreth. Khyrisse thought sadly about this for a moment, and missed part of the next remark. She heard enough, though.
"...If you go back to Hell, I stay out. Now, just for motivation's sake... if you do it willingly, I let Khyri live."
Ah, right. Ariath. She finally decided to waste me. Khyrisse would have sighed again, but she didn't seem to have any air left. Oh, don't use my nickname, ugh... Her brain locked up and refused to work for a second, just like the rest of her; and for a second, Khyrisse thought she had died. Hell. Her eyelids twitched in a brief spasm of panic over dimming violet eyes. Oh. Oh no. No, Ebreth! If she'd been capable, she would have been shouting and stomping up and down the street by now, ranting her head off. NO, dammit!!
"And if I refuse?"
YES.
"If you refuse, she enjoys a new orifice."
Khyrisse was too far gone to feel the knife at her throat. You're going to wish you stayed in Hell, she thought blurrily, and let herself fall into the patiently waiting darkness.

***
Skitch felt like he was going to throw up, looking at the red stain mixed with muddy rainwater running down the street, past his hiding place and into the sewer. His eyes, nearly all pupil, looked like they'd been burned into the shocked pale skin of his face. The rest of him moved carefully while his stomach did flips, however, edging silently into a better position in the shadows, brand new knife in his hands. The last time this happened, he hadn't even had a weapon. This didn't make him feel any better, somehow. For a brief instant, Ebreth's eyes met his and kept going. Skitch let himself exhale a tiny bit, and glanced at the body folded awkwardly at Ariath's feet, fiercely willing it to move. "Make your choice, Tor!" No! Skitch shouted mentally at Ebreth, so hard his skinny frame shook. She won't leave her alive, no matter what you do! He briefly considered trying to backstab Ariath, stupid though it was. He'd do it anyway if it looked like she knew how to kill Khyrisse for good. I can't do this on my own! he wailed silently.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Ebreth, Ariath
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Betrayed

Khyrisse heard her distantly, as if through glass. What she wanted to do was reach up and relieve Ariath of her intestine. Failing that, she wanted to impale herself on the knife the thief was holding at her throat; she knew it wouldn't really kill her, even if they didn't. What she actually did was lay paralyzed in her blood in the alley, thinking: It is happening again.

***
Ebreth summoned all his strength and grinned. "You're betting your life and your immortal soul on Ebreth Tor sacrificing himself for a woman."
"That's right," she said, breathing. "Call, Tor. What've you got?"
"You are more desperate than I thought," he said, softly, waited until fear crept across her hazel eyes despite herself. Ebreth Tor had just wanted to see that look on her face. "Second-in-command Lilith," he said, quietly, "one to beam up."

***
"Sorry," apologized Ariath. "Don't take it personally or anything. You're nice and all; a girl's just gotta do what a girl's gotta do." Ariath leaned out of the alley. "VAL!" she shouted. "Get over here, Khyrisse is hurt!" She took a second stone out of her purse. "Good luck with New Trade and everything," she said seriously, "really." She was gone in a flash of light.

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