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The Rat King Archives
Khyrisse and Pieret
Cat and Mouse, Part V
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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
Pieret shrugged. "Did you imagine I
"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
"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...?"
Cat and Mouse
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.
of Post: And Measure What We've Lost
Eric Tremontagne sat up in bed with a
forceful start. The warmth on his cheek was the morning sun. "What is it,
"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.
What the Rat Saw
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
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...
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.
Rat Kings and Dead Things
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
"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.
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.
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
Patiently, Flicker started to run through
Rat Kings and Dead Things
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,"
"Well, lead on, Sir Rat," Tor
said. "After you, Paris."
"Can you be more of a dick?"
Jack whispered to himself.
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?"
What the Rat Saw
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.
Rat Kings and Dead Things
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
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
"A warning? To me? Don't make me try
"The King of the Kings does not wish
to be disturbed in his... quest."
"And what do I care of his
"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
Still, it was strange that Beliath was
involved in this matter.
Consideration was called for. If a Lich
Lord had anything, it was time.
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.
Good Ol' Jack Paris
Rat Kings and Stupid Ebreth Tor You Big Jerk
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
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
Khyrisse, Vas, Val, and Skitch
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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.
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
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
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,
"Get your mind out of the
gutter," Ariath joked.
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
What the Rat Saw
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
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