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The Rat King Archives
Skeins of Fate, Part IV
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Jack Makes A Move
"Well, um, other people can tell when
it's grateful, now," Jack murmured.
"But I guess you're right. It does seem to relate mostly in
mathematical concepts." Jack started trailing off. "Which makes
sense, when you think that on a micro level, like those the rat exists in,
things would be linear in geometric patterning."
Val turned, to head into the inn.
"Hey, um, Val?" Jack asked, not believing that he was
listening to Ebreth Fucking Tor.
"Mm?" she asked.
"I was, uh, wondering if you wanted
to have dinner, later. Like, um, together."
"Are you asking me on a date?"
"He's not jumping your bones,
obviously," Tor muttered to himself.
"Well, um, yes. Yes, I suppose I
am." Jack knew he was just making more trouble for himself in the long
run, but what could he do?
"About fucking time," Tor
Jack shifted his weight from foot to foot,
awaiting a response.
of Post:: Somewhere in Riklandir
The foreigner shuffled miserably into the
bar. He was short and wiry, wearing a stiff coat that was much too big in the
shoulders, and his bronze skin and exotic elfin features stood out here like a
flower in the snow. "I'm looking for my cousin," he said,
Treeshaker looked around at his other
three customers, who shrugged. "I'm sorry," he said, "I don't
know him. What's his family name?"
"I don't know," he said.
"His name's Flicker. He's from Riklandir."
"Riklandir is a pretty big
country," said Treeshaker.
He swallowed. "I have a lot of
Treeshaker found himself rather endeared.
"OK, kid," he said, and drew him a lager. "On the house."
of Post:: I'm sorry, but I just couldn't resist.
"So, you're a sailor?"
"Yes," Alderon said. "I'm
captain of the vessel Sandy Claw."
"It's been destroyed, hasn't
it?" Treeshaker asked.
Alderon blinked at him. "How did you
Treeshaker roared with laughter.
"What?" Alderon demanded.
"Tell me how you knew!"
"Oh, man," Treeshaker bellowed.
"When you've lived as long in the North as I have, you come to learn that
there ain't no Sandy Claws."
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: My Goodness, Look at That... Checkmate
Valende sighed quietly, and a good deal of
accumulated tension visibly drained from her shoulders. A smile that was nearly
enough to blind any man within ten feet appeared on her face.
"Jack," she said quietly, but
clearly, so there could be no mistake, "I would simply love to have dinner
with you." She dimpled at Ebreth
Tor over Jack's shoulder, and then studied Jack with twinkling eyes. "The
shy ones are so difficult to catch, but they are worth it in the long run. Shy,
smart, and gentlemanly is such a rare combination." She touched Jack
playfully on the tip of his nose, and glided happily on into the inn.
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Jack Makes A Big Mistake
"You know, if I wasn't busy
multitasking trying to figure out what the rat is trying to tell us, I'd think
you were in on that," Jack said to Tor.
"But I feel like doing something asininely cheery like kicking my
heels or something, so I'll just say thanks. Truce?"
Jack put out his hand to Ebreth Tor, who, he
was starting to think, wasn't Ebreth Tor at all...
Kristin L. K. Andersen, Douglass Barre
Rat Kings from R.U.M.I. and Dead Villains
of Post:: Girls Night In
After a few seconds of silence, Skitch
opened the door and let Ariath in. Khyrisse was in a large wooden tub, looking
extremely frazzled and pissed and (Ariath suspected) a little blurry from the
bottle of wine she had in one hand.
Khyrisse may or may not have been crying, but there were smears of soap
suds on her face and on her other hand. She didn't seem very communicative,
though. Small wonder, thought Ariath.
Ariath just sat down next to her and took
a big slug of wine. "Man, I can't
remember the last time I had the good stuff."
There was a pause between the two blonde mages.
"It was a mindrape, wasn't it? The
Diarian's a psionic," Ariath finally said.
Khyrisse paused, then sighed.
"Yeah, he's a psionic. Grendel, my head
hurts..." Khyri leaned her head on the edge of the tub before continuing.
"I dunno from mindrape. It didn't hurt at the time. I didn't feel much of
"You don't. It's insidious that way.
It hurts when you go back over it. You get madder and madder until you want to
pull your hair out." Ariath grinned cheerily. "Or someone
else's," she added.
For the first time since Ariath got there,
Khyrisse laughed. "I pull hair pretty well. Lots of practice."
Khyrisse yanked on a damp handful of curls, and then just as quickly desisted,
wincing. "Did it stir up stuff in your head?" Khyrisse asked
hesitantly. "It feels as if my memories are caroming around in there like
little spiked marbles."
Ariath tensed, but for an imperceptible
minute. "Fortunately I had someone help me with that. It should go away
after a little while, though. It's like a scab... best if you don't pick at
it." Ariath swigged another gulp of wine. "You know, you're not as
hardassed as you seem... you just seem like someone who hasn't had a real
friend for a while."
Khyrisse tensed up again, briefly. Foamy
water sloshed over the edge of the tub, with the faint scent of hazelnuts and
spice. Then she sighed and held her forehead and relaxed against the edge
again. "I seem like a hardass
because I've got a really bad temper-- and the truth is that I'm a
creampuff," she said, smiling in a self-mocking way, eyes closed. "Or
I used to be. I found out the hard way that things weren't what I thought they
were... That's all." She tilted her head to look wryly at Ariath.
"You seem a lot more sensible and straightforward in private, yourself,
"I do a lot better when people
underestimate me," Ariath said, grinning like she was sharing some
unspoken joke with the merchant mage. Khyrisse tossed her a wicked grin, like
she knew exactly what Ari meant. "That looks way comfortable, by the
way," Ariath said. "Mind if I join you? Don't worry, I'm not like
Lotus or anything. I've got a manga 'do I'm interested in."
Khyrisse shrugged and scooted over.
"Sure, hop in; I think we'll both fit." Ariath stripped down and slid
her petite figure into the tub. "He is pretty cute, actually,"
Khyrisse admitted with a grin, "but he works for me, sort of, and I'm
trying to avoid entanglements right now. Go get him." Her eyes met
Ariath's with a wry gleam. "Just don't damage him."
Ariath's brow furrowed a bit. "You
know, I get the feeling that people are coming at me with a lot of
preconceptions. I know that I sometimes go off on people a bit, but I'm
really--oh, what did you say?--a creampuff. I guess I'm used to being the only
person I can trust... I haven't had that many friends since my parents
left." She quickly shook her head, smiled broadly and straightened up.
"Not important, though. I'll hang with you guys as long as you'll have me.
Can you pass the soap? It's been forever since I've had a warm bath!"
A few minutes later, Skitch wandered
downstairs with a dazed look on his face, greeting the party members waiting in
the common room. In his hands was an empty bottle of wine. Hazelnut bubblebath
suds coated one side of the bottle. "What's that?" Vas asked.
"Khyri and Ariath need more bubbles
for their bath." Skitch ran upstairs with a fresh bottle of wine from
behind the counter, leaving the empty on the bar.
Ebreth, an innkeeper, First Intendant Lilith
of Post:: Debts and Favors
Ebreth grinned. It was a strange feature
of the big islander that all of his expressions were pretty easy to read except
for his broad, toothy smile, which looked like it could mean any of about sixty
things. "It takes a big man to learn from a rat," he said, and
gripped Jack's hand. "You are both welcome." He turned to Val and
Tarrin, who were still bending over the weird guy with the illusory feet.
"You guys figured out what's up with him yet?"
The innkeeper stopped Valende hurriedly.
"Please," he said. He was perspiring. He pressed some coins into her
hand. "Please give these back to your mistress. Your tab has been covered.
I don't want your money. Do you understand? Stay here as long as you need. The
bill has already been paid."
Lilith looked at the savaged body hanging
from the clamps. "You are no fairy."
"I am not Grayson Mer," she
said, through cracked lips.
"I certainly hope you don't think
that without Lord Monas I am a fool."
"I am not Grayson Mer! It's a
"I know a soul when I see one."
"I tell you it is a mask! Let go my
hand. I will remove it. I will give it to you." Lilith paused. "Do
you think I am going to overpower you? Let go my bonds. I will show you. I am
not Grayson Mer." Lilith looked at
her, and then she smiled. "I don't care," she said. She watched the
despair take the woman's eyes. There were times when she loved this job.
It merited consideration, of course. But
First Intendant Lilith saw no need to mention that at the moment.
King of Kings, The Collector
of Post:: Look ma! I can fly!
The King of Kings was not happy. The
Collector watched the robed figure pace one way, then another.
"We have to speed things up.
Something has changed. Somehow they discovered the prophecy. Was anything
unusual when you marked Ebreth Tor?"
"You mean other than there was a mob
hanging some priest?" the Collector said in watery tones.
"Priest? What priest?"
"The mob was stringing him up. I
would have stayed to watch but I am very conspicuous."
"Don't get flippant with me,"
the King Of Kings snapped.
The collector bowed its head in silence.
"A priest... hmmmm... This needs some
The King of Kings drew a complex pattern
in the air. As his fingers moved they left a glowing blue mark floating in the
air. When he was done, the complex pattern flashed once and the King of Kings
was now a pure white dove.
"Keep with the plan for now,"
the dove told the Collector. "Mark the woman as soon as you can. I leave
it up to you to choose the next target. Just remember, the mathematician is
last." With that the dove took off
and flew out the window.
The Dove, Bathing beauties
of Post:: Look at the birdie in the window
"What's that?" Khyrisse asked.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Ariath turned around in the tub, trying
not to spill too much water.
"Something's at the window. Hold on while I see what it is."
Ariath slipped out of the soapy water and
walked to the window to peer out.
"It's a dove!"
"What is a dove doing here?"
"I don't know, but it seems to want
Jack Paris, Shalak
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Unbelievables
Jack shrugged. "Maybe we should get
him inside the inn. I don't like the way that mob isn't really
Vastarin walked out of the inn with a
"Vas, can you help the boys with
goatboy, here?" his sister asked. "We're going to get him inside the
inn to interrogate."
Vas just stood there, grinning.
"You guys," he finally said,
"aren't going to believe this."
Shalak looked at the image in his scrying
pool. Beliath, the fool who had bothered to threaten him, was no longer on this
plane. Good, he thought. The King of
the Kings is finally vulnerable. Then
the wave of acceleration washed over his palace, shaking the foundations.
"I... had forgotten..." he
murmured to himself.
"They're WHAT?" Jack gasped.
Val pinched her brow. This boy was going
to be work.
Tarrin, et. al.
of Post:: ...the eye of the beholder
"Do you have any valeshr
farlin?" Tarrin asked the bartender.
"What the hell is that?"
Tarrin's forehead ruffled as he tried to
think. "Ummm.. its a type of...
of..," he stuttered trying to think of the words. "Type of
"Never heard of it. Here, try the
house blend," the bartender said, filling a glass from the tap.
"Thank you," Tarrin said, giving
the bartender two Diari coins. The bartender looked at the coins for a moment,
bit them, then put them in his pocket.
Tarrin walked over to the table where the
rest of the group was sitting. Strange, their auras were not typical. They were
mostly ok, that is not what bothered him. The man he had healed had a dull blue
spot on his face, which was definitely not normal. The two elves' auras were
fine, but the female's had an odd waveriness about it. Very strange. The human
sitting next to the female elf was the strangest one of all. He had no aura
whatsoever. Even undead had some sort of aura.
Tarrin sat at the table sipping the ale.
It wasn't bad. Not exactly what he was looking for, but not bad. Even so, he
had a feeling that he was needed here. This group looked like it could use
someone to heal them. Both on the outside and the inside.
of Post:: Welcome to the Hotel California
Ebreth Tor put his first two fingers in
his mouth and bit, rolling his head like he was turning after an attractive
woman who had just passed him on the street. "Well, what are you waiting
for, man?" he said to Vas. "Let's go see if they need someone to
scrub their backs!"
"Vastarin," said Val, sharply.
"Khyrisse has forgiven her,"
said Vas, with a puckish smile, moving backwards towards the stairs. "Why
A Tobrinese farce
of Post:: I didn't mean this moment
"I have powerful friends," said
Back in the inn, a single white dove
flapped crazily around the room, while the two drunken, soapy, naked women
stumbled around covering their heads and making giggling shrieks. Outside the
door, Vas and Ebreth listened attentively, grinning stupidly at each other.
"You go first," whispered Ebreth. "You've been getting more
"And," said Skitch, downstairs,
"and you can say, 'You're a wiener.'
That means 'You're the greatest.' Like a hot dog." He hiccuped.
"You can say that instead of thank you."
"Ah," said the Diari, nodding
eagerly, and gave him more ale.
Valende frowned over at them from her seat
with Jack. "Should he really be drinking that?"
"Is the custom in my country."
"In MY country," said Skitch,
"you can, you should write on the walls."
He burped loudly.
Khyrisse, Vas, Ariath, the Dove, Ebreth
Kristin L.K. Andersen
A Tobrinese farce
of Post:: Dip Me in Bubblebath and Throw Me to the Blonde Mages
Khyrisse had gotten a handful of crumbled
waybread out of her pack, and was trying to coax the dove into landing. Ariath
was perched on the edge of the tub, laughing at the cooing sounds Khyrisse was
trying to make while giggling. The dove circled agitatedly around the room.
Vas knocked on the door to the bathing
Giggling. "Shhh, yourself!!"
Grinning, Vas knocked again.
"Who is it?" Khyrisse called
"Towel boy, mademoiselle."
"Towels?" Khyrisse glanced
owlishly around at the room. "Damn. I forgot to make towels."
The only cloth in the room that wasn't
dirty was the bedsheet. Khyrisse picked it up and laboriously wound the clean
sheet of linen around herself.
"What about me?" Ariath
Khyrisse blinked at her. "It's Vas!
Did you want your clothes on?"
Ariath looked indecisive. "You get in the tub," Khyrisse
decided. "Here, more bubblebath! That's supposed to look really alluring
Water flew everywhere. Ebreth and Vas
grinned foolishly at each other on hearing more splashing noises.
"Mademoiselle?" Vas called,
leaning against the doorframe.
"Madame," Khyrisse corrected,
still giggling a little.
"Surely not, mademoiselle. You are
far too young."
"Don't you get to be madame for being
a deity?" she demanded of Ariath. She tied the damp bedsheet in a knot at
her cleavage with a belligerent tug.
"Um. I don't know!" Ariath said,
eyes wide. She picked up the wine bottle and swigged, contemplating this.
"Aren't you, like, part of the cosmic whole or something when you're a
"You betcha." Khyrisse nodded
her head vigorously, and grinned. "What a rush!"
"Well then, yes."
"Yes," Khyrisse repeated at the
Vas and Ebreth looked at each other.
"Does that sound like an invitation
to you?" Ebreth asked, chuckling.
"I don't know," Vas replied in
considerable amusement, "but it's certainly a good sign. May we come in,
"Oh, just open the damn door!"
Vas shrugged, grinned, and opened the
The white dove shot out of the bathing
chamber on a puff of hazelnut-scented steam.
"Oh, darn," Khyrisse said,
staring after it.
Flicker, Norna, Ebreth Tor, Silent-Voice
Skeins of Fate, Rat Kings
of Post:: Straight lines
"I'm not going to change the past,
you idiot," snapped Norna. "I'm a seer, not a time-traveler. I need
the past to know what to do in the future."
Flicker sighed. "Norn," he said.
"I don't want the Valkyrie to be destroyed any more than you do."
"Then think. What could you have done
to bring on Ragnarok?"
"I'm not even really the one who
saved mankind," he said. "It was my friend Praxis."
"Don't tell me my business,
thief," she snarled. "Your part does not need to be large. Only
"Then it--it could have been
anything, Norn. I was involved in the founding of Trade. I was there when we
killed Trillarillia. Could it--" He leaned suddenly against the wall as it
flooded over him. Flicker remembered what he had dreamed. "You know,"
said Norna, leaning forward.
"I'm afraid so," he whispered,
"and I'm afraid I can't tell you."
she started, dangerously.
"It hasn't happened yet."
"Fuck!" Norna smashed the table
with her hand so hard it staved in.
Flicker didn't say anything.
"I need the past for the
future," she said, "and I need the future for the past. Damn it
all." Norna could hear the faint tinkling music in her mind, like a
child's song that would not remain in the background. "If it hasn't
happened yet. Maybe we can change it."
"No," said Flicker.
"What do you mean no," she said
"Which part didn't you
"Damn you, Ragnarokkr, if you won't
think of us, think of the rest of the world. Think of all the people who died
and suffered here. People are still suffering. Think of the gods. Your own
mother, Sunfighter!" Flicker's face didn't move. Norna leaned across at
him. "Think of me crushing your balls in my hand."
"The cost is too great," said
Flicker. "That is not the only past event it affected."
Norna closed her eyes and put both hands
on the broken table, the music pushing its way to the front of her mind.
"You," she said, "make a really piss-poor prophet."
"I know," he said,
"I don't need to erase
Ragnarok," she said, to herself. "All I need to do is turn the path
that will lead to our destruction. That is not our true future. It has been
prophesied. You brought the death of gods and the life of men and you will bring
the rebirth of the Valkyrie. It has been prophesied. I just need to--"
Norna's mind raced. "You don't--know temporal mechanics, do you?"
"God damn it. I can't trace a skein
from the future." She turned around. "Needle in a fucking haystack.
There are infinite futures. Even if I found the right skein... I would have to
follow it backward." Norna upended the hapless table with the heel of her
hand. "I'm a Valkyrie. I don't know from back-propagation."
"Sounds like you need a
mathematician," said Flicker.
"Massage is a highly developed art
form on the Islands," Ebreth was explaining, seriously. "Relax the
"What news?" whispered
"Not much," said Flicker.
They sat together, quiet, waiting for
She had taken the music box out. She had
righted the broken table. She sat holding her temples to its tinkling,
insistent refrain, over, and over. She had three days until the Valkyrie was
deposed, and then three weeks to restore them. Three weeks until her true
Our time is running out. Our time is
running out. The skeins of fate are never straight. Our time is running out.
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