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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Cat and Mouse, Part V

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Burned Bridges

Khyrisse stared at Pieret in disbelief. She grabbed his elbow and pulled him with her to the front of the coach. "Excuse us, everyone," she said over her shoulder.
Having achieved a small measure of privacy (but probably not enough of it, she thought), she let him go. "So you're not part of the Minarye family anymore? You're not part of the trading house?"
Pieret shrugged. "Did you imagine I would be?"
"Don't be stupid. They can't have disowned you. Why didn't you go back and tell them what happened?"
"I note that YOU haven't gone back." His mouth twitched, and he bowed deeply to her. "And my name has changed less often than yours, Rissa Tremontagne."
Khyrisse glared at him. "Get up, you idiot," she hissed. Pieret obliged, chuckling.
"So you haven't been home since then?" she said finally, staring at him. "How did you..." Her voice trailed away, and she glanced away, her cheeks pale. She looked a little sick.
"How did I survive being poisoned by Ixhriy?" he asked for her. He reached out and brushed aside the high collar of her black leather tunic. His fingers rested momentarily on a small triangular scar on the side of her throat, where it dipped towards her left shoulder. "You did the same once, Milady, as I recall."
Khyrisse opened her mouth to argue this, and paused. Something flickered in her eyes, and she shut her mouth with a sigh. "Okay." She smiled at Pieret, shaking her head ruefully. "You don't have to explain. I'm glad to see you anyway. You were always my favorite of the Minaryes-- excepting Miyrr, of course."
They turned back towards the rest of the group, Pieret laughing at this last remark. "Given the others you had to choose from," he murmured to her, "I don't know that that's a compliment."
"Don't worry," she said, smiling at him in a sideways fashion. "It wasn't."
As she and Pieret rejoined the group at the carriage door, Khyri saw movement behind Flicker, and was too late to react to it. Seconds later, Charlie Of-No-Matter landed at their feet. "Thank you," Flicker said, struggling for air. "Ariath." This being the first time anyone had mentioned the girl's name in her hearing, Khyrisse was hard-pressed to keep her jaw from dropping. Her eyes went from Flicker to Ariath to Pieret, and back to Ariath. "Charlie," Flicker continued, "in case no one's told you yet, you're not under the evil influence of Bane anymore."
Khyrisse turned back to glare at the former head of the Trade Assassin's Guild. "Oh, Grendel," Khyrisse spat in annoyance. She turned abruptly to Jack. "Jack, where's that rat, anyway? This is loads of fun, don't get me wrong, but what were we supposed to be doing here...?"

Character(s):: Flicker, Ebreth
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: More than one way to catch a Viking

Ebreth stared at the assassin. "That man just tried to kill him!" he said to Khyrisse. "This place is crazy. I might as well have gone to Rimbor City!"
"Aren't you going to decapitate me now?" sneered Charlie.
"If we carry the things that happened during the Madness out of it," said Flicker, with low anger, "it will never end. Hasn't Ataniel had enough of this for a few months?" He wrenched the assassin's sword away from him, sheathing his own with his left hand. "Get out. I have no thirst for your blood."
Charlie looked strangely at him. "Oh, well," he said. "I suppose that works too." He twisted his bracelet; the sword erupted into blue brilliance in Flicker's hand, and then both of them were gone.

Character(s): Eric, Sibley
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Rat Kings
Title of Post: And Measure What We've Lost

"My lord?"
Eric Tremontagne sat up in bed with a forceful start. The warmth on his cheek was the morning sun. "What is it, Sibley?"
"I am sorry to disturb you, my lord, but something--strange has been found in the receiving room."
Eric tied his robe off forcefully at the waist. He had been dreaming about her again. "What?"
"It's--well, it's ten rats, my lord, tied together. Such a sight. The whole staff is in uproar."
"Tell Ivor," he said, "to find out who put it there and kill him." He stalked from the bedroom.
"Poor Master Eric," sighed Sibley, shaking his head.

Character(s):: The Rat
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post:: Rat Dreams, Rat Realities

The Rat was dreaming. At least he thought he was dreaming. His last clear memory was being placed in the nice satchel away from danger. He remembered falling asleep and then he was here in this dark alley.
The rat sniffed the air to gain his bearings. Nope, nothing familiar. Which in itself was strange. He quickly scampered into the shadows in find some safety. That is when he heard it. It walked with the sound of ancient leaves crunching under thousands of pounds. Its breath, when it remembered to breathe, was like a liquidy death rattle from tongueless mouth. Its smell, which came upon the rat like a wall of force, was like nothing he had ever smelled before. The smell conveyed just one thing... evil.
The rat watched as it approached. Wherever it walked light seemed to flee from its presence. It was as if the light was afraid to touch it. Primal terror filled the rat's soul. He knew he had to get out of here but his legs wouldn't move.
The thing was closer now and the rat could see it better even in the semi-dark that surrounded it. It was about man height and dressed in opulent clothes. Its head was a rotten skull dripping with worms and maggots. Two fiery coals were its eyes. Its hands and feet were bare. As it walked small pieces of rotted flesh fell off and hissed as they ate through the cobblestones. Over its shoulder was slung a long pole with many objects tied to them. The rat knew what those objects were. They were rats and they were all still alive and screaming in terror.
The rat tried to back into the shadows to get away from this horrible man-thing, but still he couldn't move. Then it stopped just before him and looked down. A large green worm fell off its skull and landed before the rat. The worm wriggled for a moment then dissolved into an acidic slime. He looked up just to see the man-thing reaching down to grab him. It was then the rat passed out.
The rat awoke with a start. He was shaking with terror and wanted to get out of this place. With fierce determination the rat ripped through the satchel and took off.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Things
Title of Post:: The Trouble With Jack

"And I don't want to have to tell you again, it's >Charles< now."
"I thought your name was of no matter," Flicker said.

***
Jack looked at the rat. It seemed to be asleep. He shrugged at Khyrisse. "It's sleeping. I just followed the map it made."
"Following rats? I did that for years myself," Pieret quipped.
"Huh? What?" Jack asked.
"Rats in government," Pieret said patronizingly. "The rats who prey upon the flesh of the poor, the underprivileged."
"Right. Okay. Whatever that's supposed to mean," Jack mumbled to himself.
"You preyed on quite a few people yourself, Pieret," Ariath said. "Or would you rather I call you Kardia? You went by that for some time, if I recall correctly."
With that, the rat suddenly awoke and shot out of the satchel like, perhaps literally, a rat out of hell.

***
Robinson Paris sat hunched over an ancient tome, occasionally sketching something onto a giant parchment he had tacked up to the wall. The tome was titled "The Arcane Arts of Imaginary Numbers." Robinson whistled as he worked. There was little as enjoyable as endeavoring into a new mathematical vista. None of the Smullyan Grimoires had been available when he worked with Jack, so many years ago. He hoped to have something interesting to show his son and student the next time their paths met.
Then he saw it.
It wasn't a mathematical condition he had ever considered. Dimensional constants on imaginary numbers were assumed to be the same. However, Smullyan clearly proved that that wasn't necessarily the case. And Jack had been talking about planar travel the last time he was here. Why hadn't Robinson seen it? Anticipated this?
He slammed the book shut.
He had to find Jack Paris, and he had to find him now.

Character(s):: Ebreth, Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Ebreth Tor, thoroughly confused

"What are you people involved in?" said Ebreth. "Who was that guy?"
Just then, a rat exploded from Jack Paris' satchel. Ebreth jerked back from it. "What the Hell?"
"Rat!" shouted Jack. "Wait!"

***
The walls of the cell Charlie had left him in were smooth and opaque. Flicker could see, at best, large indistinct shadows beyond them, some vague fluctuations in light. He could hear nothing. There didn't seem to be a door; the Nylevian assassin had left the same way both had arrived, with a flash of light and an odd mechanical sound. Flicker sat on the opaque floor, cross-legged, in Shalini's fashion. After a moment he took his recorder out of his belt pouch. It was new wood--he had given his last recorder to Shilree--and very stiff. Now seemed to be a very good time to break it in.
Patiently, Flicker started to run through scales.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Things
Title of Post:: A Follow Of Infinite Jest

"That, Tor, is our party leader," Jack said annoyedly.
"A rat?" Tor asked. "You're really following a rat?"
"I'm following him," Ariath said, gesturing to Vastarin.
"I'll follow her," Pieret said, nodding at Khyrisse.
"I'm not following this at all," Khyrisse sighed.
"Well, lead on, Sir Rat," Tor said. "After you, Paris."
"Can you be more of a dick?" Jack whispered to himself.

Character(s):: Ebreth
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Following a rat

"So," said Ebreth, conversationally, to Khyrisse. He looked rather like a panther: large, dark, and taut. His eyes were an incongruous blue. He gave her an engaging smile and jogged alongside her backwards as the group hurried after the rat. "Who was that attacking you guys back there? Should we be worried?"

Character(s):: The Rat
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post:: Run and Hide

Get away! GET AWAY! Those were the only thoughts running through the rat's brain. He must run away from what he saw. He must find safety.

***
Shalak was not happy. For millennia the Lich Lord had kept to himself in his castle. Now things were changing. Bane had upset things and his plans for the future were no longer certain.
A dry crunch answered the Lich Lord as he sat on his throne. Getting up he saw shattered remnants of a Rat King on his throne. Tapping his skeletal finger on the arm of his throne Shalak knew that things were getting out of hand. From this point he could no longer afford to be subtle. It was time for him to send out one of his agents into the world. It was time to deal the Rat Kings and their creator once and for all.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Things
Title of Post:: Don't Mess With Rat Kings

"You know," Pieret said, "I don't think that rat's leading us anywhere at all. I think he's running for cover."
Jack wished someone would just hand him a ledger to audit or something. This questing stuff was for the birds.

***
"Shalak," came the voice from the scrying pool.
The Lich Lord looked into the mask that met his gaze. "Beliath. And how can I serve you this fine day?"
"I have no time for your sarcasm, Lich Lord," the dean of the Dead College said. "I bring you a warning."
"A warning? To me? Don't make me try to laugh."
"The King of the Kings does not wish to be disturbed in his... quest."
"And what do I care of his needs?"
"If you leave matters be, I am willing to deliver one to you who can assist your escape."
"And who might that be?"
"A Hero. Once of the Trade Council. An illusionist named Shilree."
"I... will consider," the Lich Lord said after a time.
"See that you do," Beliath said. "The King of the Kings will not be denied."
The scrying pool went dead.
"Fool," Shalak muttered through rotting gums. "The Lich Lord will deny any mortal he wishes. King of the Kings included."
Still, it was strange that Beliath was involved in this matter.
Consideration was called for. If a Lich Lord had anything, it was time.

Character(s):: Ebreth
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Skittles

"You've got a leak there, Paris," said Ebreth Tor, with a straight face.
Through the seam the rat had ripped open, raisins were spilling out of Jack's backpack. A chewed-up napkin fell out and started drifting down the street.

Character(s):: Good Ol' Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Stupid Ebreth Tor You Big Jerk
Title of Post:: You're A Blockhead, Jack Paris

"Aaaaugh!" Jack screamed. "The Johhn solution! Crap! Crapcrapcrap!" Jack watched the rat running. He looked to the napkin. Rat. Napkin. Then he lost track of the rat and the napkin got run over by a carriage. "Good grief," Jack sighed.

Character(s):: Ebreth
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: And this is my fault?

The tattered scrap of paper went whirling up in a cloud of dust as the carriage thundered by. Ebreth Tor jumped about six feet straight up and snatched it out of the air rather like a cat swiping a moth. "A different Ebreth Tor," said Jack.
"You're the one who knew him," said Ebreth. "You tell me; would he retrieve a filthy napkin soaked in rat saliva for you?" He deposited its remains in Jack's palm. "Free of charge?"

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Vas, Val, and Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Rimbor City Was Never Like This

Skitch, less startled and disturbed than Khyrisse at the moment, bolted after the rat. Khyrisse followed moments later, most of the group near the carriage following in a straggling mess. It looks like I'm in charge, she thought, still very confused by Pieret and stunned by Flicker's abduction. Whose bright idea was THAT? Skidding around a corner after Skitch, who was rapidly outdistancing her, she saw the non-pirate and Jack fall behind. Val stopped beside them, keeping an eye out for trouble while they paused in the middle of the street. Vas, Pieret and Ariath were still following her. Lovely. What a combination. After this brief glance, she rushed after her apprentice-- just in time to see him scramble through a bent and rusted rain-grate at the end of an alley. He disappeared with a yelp. She ran up and stared down the hole in consternation. It was much too small for anyone other than Skitch and the rat to fit through.
Vas slid to a halt next to her and peered at the drain, politely ignoring the imaginative string of curses Khyrisse was muttering about sewers and rats, street rats included. "Down there, eh?" He scratched his chin for a moment, then turned to Khyrisse. "Are we following?"
Khyrisse nodded in agreement, and looked up at him with a beleaguered expression. "I don't think most of us are going to fit down there. I'm the next smallest, and then maybe... Ariath, but the rest of you..."
Vas cut her off politely with a gesture. "Don't worry about it, milady; I am prepared for something like this. I think it might be a good idea if you secured your carriage, though." Khyrisse nodded grimly, and sprinted back past Pieret and Ariath to get her carriage. As she left, Vas examined the old and rusted storm drain. "Shouldn't be too difficult," he muttered to himself as he bent down to grip the grate. With a quick effort, he ripped the grate, and a good bit of the stone it was bolted to, right out of the ground. The hole had more than doubled in size with his effort, and it was now big enough for even Ebreth Tor.
Ariath's eyes grew wide as he threw the grate aside. "Whoof" was the only word that escaped her throat for a few seconds. After she regained her composure, she leaned over to him and said, "Do they have any more like you at home, or am I just lucky?"
As Jack examined the napkin frantically to make sure the Johhn solution was still intact, he felt a gentle hand touch his elbow. Val stood next to him, glancing up and down the street. "Jack? We should catch up with the others," she pointed out. She gestured towards the alley, her other hand on her longsword, and gave Ebreth Tor a sweet smile. "Gentlemen? After you."
Khyrisse pelted out of the alley and back towards Rumi's gate. "I'll be right back," she gasped as she flew past. "Go on!" I gave up fifty years of my life for the damned thing, she thought as she screeched to a stop behind the Trade Carriage. Gasping out something that sounded like "Last Stop, Rumi!", she touched the seal on the back and collapsed the entire thing into the embroidered seal of New Trade. She stuffed it into her shirt and ran back through the gate. I'm not leaving it behind THIS soon.

Character(s):: Ebreth
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Questions without answers

"Excuse..." said Ebreth. Khyrisse blew right by him, flustered. He shook his head. "Would someone mind telling me what is going on here?" he said.
The extremely shapely elven woman smiled encouragingly at him. "Gentlemen," she said, "after you."
Well, that was more like it. "Good lady," he said, "I am at your service," and spread his hands in a charming flourish. Paris was looking more antagonistic by the minute. "But listen, could you fill me in on a couple of things along the way? I do owe your rather busy boss my life--" Khyrisse came skidding back, panting and clutching a cloth standard of some sort. "--but all delusions aside, I really am a merchant, and I'm a little more useful when I've got some small amount of information to work with? Such as who's trying to kill you, or maybe what's in that storm drain, or what you're trying to accomplish--I mean, throw me a bone, here! What are we doing?" He looked down into the sewer. "And why am I doing it with you?" he asked, this time more to himself.

Character(s):: Khyrisse
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Oh, no, not another learning experience!

Khyrisse tucked the Seal back into her tunic, and flashed a smile at Ebreth Tor. "Sorry," she said, still a little out of breath, and held out her hand to him. "My name is Khyrisse Starshadow, and this is Valende Shiarintal. She and her brother Vastarin have recently... entered my employment, for lack of a better term. Since I'm sure you'd rather come with us than stay without allies in Rumi at the moment, may I explain things along the way?" She hurried on towards the alley and tried to explain things quickly. "The original plan when we arrived in Rumi really WAS to follow the rat. Through one means and another, we determined that something terrible had happened, and that the rat was a messenger. Following a..." Khyrisse glanced at Jack, and smiled encouragingly at him, "...detailed map provided by the rat, we came to Rumi." She turned back to Ebreth Tor with a wry expression. "Rumi was in an uproar when we arrived, as I'm sure you noticed. Once we defused the situation, an old acquaintance of ours appeared, tried to kill Flicker for no comprehensible reason that I know of, and then disappeared with him. The rat ran off, followed by my apprentice, and they have both vanished down the storm drain." Pausing next to the ripped-up storm grate, she turned and looked up into his startlingly blue eyes. "My only lead right now to figuring out anything that's happened here is the rat, frankly. I'm afraid you're not the only one of us without information. Can you tell me what was going on before we arrived here? How long have you been in Rumi, for instance? Anything you know about this town and its recent history would help."

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: What Are We Doing Here, Anyway?

Jack bit his tongue. He wasn't about to explain to Ebreth Tor, the man who had destroyed his cousin, that he was following a rat. Instead, he took a look around for the missing rodent. The creature had been panicked, and rushed in a wide arc around the corner. That indicated that it was likely that its momentum would have taken it around the wide end of the corner and into the alley. There were three possible rat exits, and Jack did some quick geometrical and statistical work in his head. The most likely direction the rat would have gone in was the small sewer grate next to the pile of compost behind the local inn. Great, thought Jack. I always wondered how a band of adventurers got stuck with a stupid name like the Sewer Tour. Guess I'm going to find out. "He went that way," Jack said, reasonably confident.
"Get your mind out of the gutter," Ariath joked.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Into the Sewer

Ebreth Tor sighed. "I'm afraid I can't help you there. All I know about Rumi is that it's supposed to be an innocuous little port where an honest merchant like myself might be able to do some business without being mistaken for a homicidal maniac quite as often I am back home. Apparently I was wrong." He swung effortlessly down into the sewer, politely offering his hand up to Khyrisse and Val. "You said the assassin who abducted your friend was an acquaintance. Do you know his name?"

Character(s):: The Rat
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post:: Rats and markings

The flight instinct was still dominating the rat's mind. He had to get away from the thing he saw in the alley. He had to get away. The rat jumped out the satchel, ran down the road, turned down an alley and entered a nondescript sewer grate. After entering the sewer the rat, heart pumping and breath panting, stopped.
"Safe," the rat thought. "A nice safe sewer."
The rat sniffed the air. It was a sewer alright. Nice and stinky. Walking over to the sewer wall the rat paused to groom himself. He quickly cleaned his whiskers, cleaned his paws and licked his fur. As he groomed himself the rat parted his fur just above his stomach. The skin here was a sickly rotten purple. As the rat groomed himself further more discolored skin was revealed. The purple lines formed a pattern, a symbol. A symbol someone with magical training would recognize as a sigil of power and warding.

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