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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Skeins of Fate, Part IV

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title 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?" Valende asked.
"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 murmured.
Jack shifted his weight from foot to foot, awaiting a response.

Character(s):: Alderon
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Interlude
Title 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, "Flicker."
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 time."
Treeshaker found himself rather endeared. "OK, kid," he said, and drew him a lager. "On the house."

Character(s):: Treeshaker, Alderon
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Interlude
Title 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 know?"
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."

Character(s):: Valende
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title 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.


Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title 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...

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Ariath
Author:: Kristin L. K. Andersen, Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings from R.U.M.I. and Dead Villains
Title 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 anything, really."
"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, you know."
"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.

Character(s):: Ebreth, an innkeeper, First Intendant Lilith
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title 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 mask!"
"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.

Character(s):: King of Kings, The Collector
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Interlude
Title 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 looking into."
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.

Character(s):: The Dove, Bathing beauties
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: The Boid
Title of Post:: Look at the birdie in the window

Tap! Tap!
"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!"
Tap! Tap!
"What is a dove doing here?"
"I don't know, but it seems to want in."

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Shalak
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Unbelievables

Jack shrugged. "Maybe we should get him inside the inn. I don't like the way that mob isn't really dispersing."
Vastarin walked out of the inn with a stupefied grin.
"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.

Character(s):: Tarrin, et. al.
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Mind Games
Title 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 ale."
"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.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title 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 shouldn't I?"

Character(s):: Ensemble
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: A Tobrinese farce
Title of Post:: I didn't mean this moment

"I have powerful friends," said Flicker.

***
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 signals."
"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.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Vas, Ariath, the Dove, Ebreth
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: A Tobrinese farce
Title 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 room.
"Shh!"
Giggling. "Shhh, yourself!!"
Grinning, Vas knocked again.
"Who is it?" Khyrisse called out.
"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 demanded.
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 or something."
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 deity?"
"You betcha." Khyrisse nodded her head vigorously, and grinned. "What a rush!"
"Well then, yes."
"Yes," Khyrisse repeated at the door.
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, mademoiselle?"
"MADAME!"
"Oh, just open the damn door!" Ariath shouted.
Vas shrugged, grinned, and opened the door.
The white dove shot out of the bathing chamber on a puff of hazelnut-scented steam.
"Oh, darn," Khyrisse said, staring after it.

Character(s):: Flicker, Norna, Ebreth Tor, Silent-Voice
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate, Rat Kings
Title 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 integral."
"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."
"What?" 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 furiously.
"Which part didn't you understand?"
"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, apologetically.
"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?"
"Not yet."
"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
body--relax the mind."

***
"What news?" whispered Silent-Voice.
"Not much," said Flicker.
They sat together, quiet, waiting for Norna.

***
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 death.
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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