Episode 3: A New Game

Episode 3: A New Game Dikiyoba Sun, 07/29/2007 - 07:58
It's been two months since the thing was banished from the Spiderweb Software Message Boards. Since then, things have been quiet. A little too quiet. Several people left the boards to recuperate from the recent experiences and never came back. The remaining members haven't said or done anything notable since then. Is there anything that can attract new members and get the old members talking again, or are the boards and everyone on them doomed to fade into obscurity?

Disclaimer: Almost all characters and places are from the Spiderweb Software Message Boards. Any resemblance to fictional characters or places is completely coincidental. However, the events in this script are fictional and should not be taken as history or prophecy. It should be read for entertainment purposes only.

Appearances

Appearances Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 17:29
Administrators: 2
Drakefyre
Stareye

Moderators: 8
Alorael
Arancaytar
Delicious Vlish
Imban
Kelandon
Khoth
Saunders
Schrodinger

Members: 52
Actaeon
Alec
Almighty Do-er of Stuff
Andraste
Archmagus Micael
Ash Lael
Dikiyoba
Dintiradan
Ephesos
Emperor Tullegolar
Enraged Slith
Fatman
FBM
Frozen Feet
Garrison
Icshi (Ethereal)
Jadewolf
Jewels
Jumpin' Salmon
Kyrek
Kingy
Lazarus
Lenar
Lurker
MagmaDragoon
Marlenny
Mysterious Man
Mystic
Nalyd
Nemesis
Niemand
Nikki
Nioca
Rakshasi
Randomizer
Riibu
Sarasaphilia
Silent Assassin
Slartucker
Smoo
Stew Boy
Student of Trinity
Synergy
Terror's Martyr
Thralni
Thuryl
Tyranicus
Upon Mars
Wanderer
Zephyr Tempest
Zeviz
Zorro

Overall total: 62

Reviews

Reviews Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 17:32
What fans, critics, people who just want to get a line in the review section, and perhaps an unsuspecting person or two have to say about Spiderweb: A New Game.

These are the legends of our people. -Student of Trinity

Kitties are adorable! -Zephyr Tempest

Yay! Prose! The crickets approve. -Ephesos

I must admit I was impressed... I for one enjoy being a two-dimensional character... you have me pegged. -Emperor Tullegolar

To spam! -Tyranicus

HERETIC!!!!! -Infernal666hate

Snakes are good eating. -Jewels

Snakes? Bah. STEAKS! -Slartucker

You need to crazy it up a little bit. -Jumpin' Salmon

Yay! The drama continues... I'm going to be famous! Or will I die first? -Andraste

I dress like that loser Harry Potter. -Arancaytar

Last night my dreams included a machine that rats came out of. -Archmage Alex

Bad acting... over-usage of CGI effects... cool lightsaber battles? -Demonslayer

Disregard. -Thuryl

Such shlock. This is an offense to all that is good, right and decent in the world. -Fatman

Oh my...! -Stareye

. -VCH

I like the new format and so far the story... this is getting funnier all the time. -Randomizer

I must flirt with Aran! -Riibu

Another sequel? I love those funny scripts about one of the best communities ever... -MagmaDragoon

Waiting oh so anxiously for the next part... I don't want Beethoven's Fifth to be cued. -Nioca

[Nalyd] reveres Spiderweb Software! -Nalyd

Being Dintiradan's sidekick rocks. -The Lurker

If you want to have the luxury of a sedative when I take over the board and kill everyone, I suggest you call me 'Supreme Omnipotent Master Whose Superior Intellect And Blindingly Good Looks Inspire Awe In All Those Around'. -Dintiradan

The Silent Assassin is offended by being type-cast as a being of random wanton destruction. -Lenar

I demand the inclusion of some kind of ethereal vegetable... -Nikki

I would be honored to be reincarnated as a chicken. -Thralni

It's not my business or inclination to say anything about such things. -Rakshasi

Frankly, I'd rather not know what a radioactive enema feels like. Ack. -Nemesis

Our side expresses agreement in principle with the spirit of your proposal and is willing to coordinate a time and place to schedule a meeting to discuss an agenda for the preliminary talks about the feasibility of a successful spam disarmament conference. -Zeviz

I haven't read a word of this. -Kelandon

Chapter 1: Statistics

Chapter 1: Statistics Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 17:39
A blast of cold wind and a few snowflakes blew into the General Forum as the door separating the Spiderweb Software Message Boards from the rest of the Internet opened. Arancaytar, wearing a heavy coat, gloves, and a red-and-gold scarf, stepped inside and quickly shut the door.

"Well, it's official. We're in a cold spell, and it shows no sign of warming up. It's another record low out there," Arancaytar said.

"It will warm up before Geneforge 4 is released, though, won't it?" MagmaDragoon asked, "Otherwise, how will the newbs get here?"

Arancaytar shrugged. "I don't know. Anyway, here..." Arancaytar reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper. "...are the statistics for this month. I'm sorry that they're so late, but in this cold the machinery broke down and it took me a while to repair it."

Arancaytar posted the statistics on the wall between the giant Periodic Table of Spiderweb poster and a display showcasing various pieces of art that Spiderwebbers have created. Everyone gathered around to read it.

"As you can see, the posting rate has dropped again. At this rate, it won't be long before nobody posts at all," Arancaytar said.

"Hmm. Eighth. Not bad," Ephesos said.

"I only made sixteenth. That's bad. I fell a lot this month," MagmaDragoon said.

"It's that new, clunky suit of armor you're wearing. That's why you tripped so much," Jumpin' Salmon said, "Ah, fifth place. Not bad."

"Maybe you're right. But I have to wear it. I'm a guardian, after all," MagmaDragoon said.

"Huh. I'm not in the top ten. That's strange," Kelandon said.

"Isn't it? You know, this makes me want to spam," Marlenny said.

"Uh-oh. General will be swamped with census topics now," Dikiyoba said.

"That's a good idea, Diki. Hang on while I think up some good questions." Marlenny stepped out of the crowd and sat down at a table. She took out a piece of paper and a pen and began brainstorming possible questions.

"Excellent. Dikiyoba took second. Dikiyoba is pleased," Dikiyoba said.

"I took fourth? Hmm. That's not the rank of an Emperor. But it's a good start!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Seventh? I took seventh? But I haven't posted that much!" Tyranicus said.

"We're going to have to be like Marlenny and spam. That way we earn our positions on the top ten list," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"I'm in!" Tyranicus said.

"I believe the Silent Assassin and I will join you," Lenar said. The Silent Assassin nodded in agreement.

"Bah. I made the top ten list. I hate making the top ten list," Nikki said.

"What's going on? What'd I miss?" Nioca pushed to the front of the crowd, accidentally stepping on Ephesos's foot as he went. Ephesos winced and muttered something unintelligible under his breath.

"Huh? What did you say?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"Oh, I... I said, don't forget about the rest of us, Jumpin' Salmon. I'm sure there are plenty of people who want to see more posts next month," Ephesos said.

"Wow! I came in first! How did I manage to come in first?" Nioca asked.

"By posting a lot. Just like everyone else is going to do this month," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"This is ridiculous. Everything will be fine. It's just been a while since the last game was released is all. When Geneforge 4 comes out, everything will return to normal," Slartucker said.

"Oh? Did the Nine-Headed Cave Cow tell you that?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"Well, no, but..." Slartucker began.

"This decline in posting is larger than all the other declines between game releases. There's something else at work here," Arancaytar said.

"Then here's to spam!" Jumpin' Salmon said.

"To spam!" Lenar said.

"To spam!" Tyranicus said.

"Okay, that's enough," Slartucker said. He looked annoyed.

"To spam!" Ephesos took one look at the expression on Slartucker's face and looked away quickly. "Right. Sorry."

Nikki sidled up to Arancaytar. "I'll take your coat for you," he said.

"Oh. Thank you." Arancaytar handed his coat, scarf, and gloves to Nikki. Nikki took them to the coat room and hung them up. Then, after glancing around to make sure no one could see him, he carefully tucked a folded piece of pink stationary into Arancaytar's coat pocket. Whistling casually, he returned to the main section of the forum. He met Alorael coming down a set of rickety stairs.

"Hey, Alorael. How's it going?" Nikki asked.

"Terrible! In this weather, there aren't any pedestrians out. And since I had the window open, the room was freezing. Look! My skribbane potion is frozen!" Alorael pulled out a bottle, uncorked it, and held it upside down. Nothing came out. "We need more trolls! Trolls walk around in all sorts of weather! Trolls would make frozen skribbane worthwhile!"

The door swung open again, sending another flurry of snow into the forum. The Lurker entered with a large package under his arm. He shut the door and hurried over to where Dintiradan and the Wanderer sat at a corner table. As soon as Dintiradan saw the Lurker, he leapt up.

"Do you have it?" Dintiradan asked.

The Lurker set the package on the table. "Right here, sir."

"Excellent, excellent. Hang on." Dintiradan clapped a hand over his mouth and quickly dashed to a side room. Only then did he allow himself to burst into evil laughter. Still, the sound carried all the way to the corner table.

Wanderer shuddered. "I hate that laugh."

The Lurker started shivering as well, although it was probably more from the cold than Dintiradan's laughter. "I... I think I'll... I'll go stand b... by the f... f... fire." The Lurker stood up and walked over to the fire, where a few meager flamefests were burning.

Emperor Tullegolar poked one with his slith spear. "So. What do you think makes a good villain?" he asked.

"W... whatever D... D... Dintiradan d... does," the Lurker said, edging as close to the fire as possible.

Dintiradan returned to the table. "Where did the Lurker go?" he asked. Wanderer pointed to the fire. "Oh. I see. Well, let him warm up for a while. He's done enough by bringing this to me. It's... it's... hang on." Dintiradan ran to the side room and began laughing again.

"You need to work on that, boss," Wanderer said, "The Evil Overlord Guidebook says..."

"Yes, yes. I know. It's just that this package is the key to a plan so diabolical, so heinous, so..."

"Are you sure you can control it, though?" the Wanderer asked.

"Yes, I..." Dintiradan thought for a moment. "...I'll start small. Very small."

"How small?" Wanderer asked.

"Snakes!" Dintiradan said.

Chapter 2: Tyranicus Dies. Again.

Chapter 2: Tyranicus Dies. Again. Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 17:42
Dintiradan, Wanderer, and the Lurker entered the SubTerra Forum. Tools and mechanical bits and pieces littered the floor around it.

"Here it is. I've spent the last several days building this. Now it's almost completed," Dintiradan said.

"It's c... cold d... down here. W... why are we here instead of ups... stairs? I th... think I'm getting a... a c... cold. Achoo!" The Lurker sneezed.

"Because we won't be discovered down here, that's why," Dintiradan.

There was the sound of footsteps and a knock on the door to the forum.

"Then who is that?" Wanderer asked.

Dintiradan grinned evilly. "Our guest. Come in!"

The door opened and Zephyr Tempest entered, wearing nothing but shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and flip-flops. The Lurker stared at him in amazement.

"A... aren't you c... cold?" he stuttered.

"What? It's the perfect temperature!" The machine caught Zephyr Tempest's attention. "Hey, what is that? Is it another deth ray?"

"No, it's something far, far more sinis... um, this machine will automatically summon things once it is correctly calibrated."

"You mean like the elements that are necessary to revive Spiderwebbers who've died?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"Yes. Exactly like that. It won't be used to summon things that will cause massive chaos and devastation or anything like that," Dintiradan said.

"So you need my help calibrating it, since I'm a mage and I know the summon element spell?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"Yes. But don't make it specifically for elements. It should be for general use. You know, to summon skribbane for Alorael in case he runs out or something," Dintiradan said.

"Hmm. Perhaps you should ask Drakefyre to help?" Zephyr Tempest asked, "This will be a difficult task, and he is more experienced than I am."

"Are you saying you can't do it?" Dintiradan asked, "Surely a mage of your skill could..."

"Of course I can do it!" Zephyr Tempest said.

Dintiradan suppressed a grin. "Excellent."

"C... can I go upstairs now, Dintiradan? I... I can't f... feel my t... toes," the Lurker said.

"Yes. But be back in an hour!" Dintiradan said.

"Th... thank you, b... boss." The Lurker exited the SubTerra Forum.

---

Back in the General Forum, it was chaos. Almost everyone had taken the agreement to spam the boards back to life, and the board had reached an activity level it hadn't known for two months. Although the flamefests were practically burnt out, someone had thrown a large amount of spam onto the fire, so the forum was plenty warm. The Lurker quietly entered and stood as close to the flames as he could without setting himself on fire.

Jumpin' Salmon looked down at his watch. "Come on, people. We've been quiet for about five seconds. Marlenny, where's that census topic?"

"I'm working on it! They're going to be really good questions, though," Marlenny said.

"Fine. Keep working on it. Everyone else, what are we going to talk about?"

Everyone started talking at once.

"Television shows!" Tyranicus yelled.

"Typos!" said Nioca.

"How to eliminate the weak from society!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Why we should eat more meat!" Fatman said.

"You're disgusting!" Nikki told Fatman.

Slartucker looked up from the table where he and Drakefyre were debating a technical point about golems over the Encyclopedia Ermariana. "We're trying to work over here. Could you keep it down?"

"But..." Jumpin' Salmon began.

"Oh, don't argue. We'll just go to Room: Spidweb for a few hours," Tyranicus said. He climbed onto a chair and announced to the room, "Attention, everyone! We're getting a group together to go hang out at Room: Spidweb and chat for a few hours. Anyone who wants to come along is welcome."

"Sure, I'll come along," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"I'll come," Kelandon said.

"Me too," Marlenny said.

"I'm coming," Lazarus said.

Ephesos looked up from the spell book he was studying. "I'm busy at the moment, but I'll join you shortly."

"Hmm. I'll... Silent Assassin! Put those lawn chemicals down!" Lenar said.

The Silent Assassin stuck his tongue out at Lenar and ran off.

"I'm afraid I'm busy too," Lenar said as he followed the Silent Assassin. "You heard me! Put them down. Now. And this had better not have anything to do with bananas or rubber bands again!"

"I'll join you later as well," Slartucker said, "After I finish a few more entries."

"When are we leaving?" Ash Lael asked.

"Right now." Tyranicus stepped down from the chair and walked toward the door

"Hang on, let me get my coat." Arancaytar went to the coat room and grabbed his coat. The pink slip of paper that Nikki had left fluttered out of the pocket and onto the floor. Arancaytar picked it up and read it. It said: Arancaytar, you crazy kitten, I know you secretly like me. So stop pretending like you don't. -Nikki.

"Gah!" Arancaytar ripped up the note and threw it on the ground. He hurried to join the group of Spiderwebbers preparing to leave: Tyranicus, Jumpin' Salmon, Kelandon, Marlenny, Lazarus, Stareye, FBM, Thuryl, Alec, Mysterious Man, and the Almighty Do-er of Stuff.

"Right. Is that everyone? Then let's go." Tyranicus opened the door and began walking through the snow.

"Hey, Tyranicus, are you forgetting something?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

Tyranicus kept walking as he called back, "Like what?"

"Where's Alorael?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

About twenty feet out, Tyranicus stopped short as realization hit him. Then he dropped dead as a bullet from Alorael's sniper rifle hit him.

"Oh dear. That's not good," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"Oops! Sorry! That's why you should tell me when you're going out!" Alorael yelled from his lookout spot.

"Mages! Someone summon some manganese. Zorro, we need to borrow your copy of Galactic Core," Stareye said.

Zeviz stepped forward. "I've got it. Summon manganese!" There was a flash of light and a chunk of manganese appeared on the ground. Zeviz handed it to Zorro. Zorro combined it with Galactic Core. Out in the snow, Tyranicus slowly stood up, alive and restored.

"How're you doing, Tyran?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"I'm okay. Now let's go," Tyranicus said.

Lazarus was the last one out. As the door shut behind him, Slartucker sighed in relief.

"Thank goodness. Maybe now I can get some work done," he said.

"Silent Assassin, are those my finger paints? What are y... the kitchen! Why did you do that to the kitchen!?" Lenar yelled.

Chapter 3: Complications

Chapter 3: Complications Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 17:46
After an hour had passed, the Lurker went back to the SubTerra Forum.

"I'm back," he said.

"And I'm done," Zephyr Tempest said.

"Good. Now let me test it out. Would you mind handing me that package?" Dintiradan asked.

As Zephyr Tempest walked over to get the package, Dintiradan mouthed the words You know what to do to Wanderer and the Lurker.

"Here you are." Zephyr Tempest handed the package to Dintiradan. Dintiradan picked up the package and ripped the wrapping off it.

Zephyr Tempest felt a chill run down his spine as a copy of Homeland fell out. "Why do you have that? What are you going to do with it?" he asked.

Dintiradan picked Homeland up and took a step towards the machinery. "You'll see."

"You can't! I'll stop you!" Zephyr Tempest yelled. Unfortunately, he failed to notice the Lurker sneaking up on him with a wrench. At least, not until the Lurker sneezed.

"Achoo!"

Zephyr Tempest whirled around. "Ice lan..."

Dintiradan managed to hit Zephyr Tempest over the head with Homeland. Zephyr Tempest fell to the ground.

"Not quite like I'd planned it, but it worked. Now tie him up," Dintiradan said.

The Lurker knelt down and felt for a pulse. "But Dintiradan, he's dead."

"Dead? But I didn't hit him that hard! Rats. I wanted to keep him alive in case the machinery needs adjusting later on. But I suppose it's safer this way, as there's no risk of him escaping now. Besides, there are other mages I can trick into helping me if necessary. Now hide the body."

"Where?" Wanderer asked.

"Anywhere where it won't be found!" Dintiradan said.

As Wanderer and the Lurker dragged the body out of sight, Dintiradan looked at the copy of Homeland in his hand. "I guess this really is evil. If I would have known that I could kill people with it directly, I wouldn't have bothered with the whole summoning bit. Oh well. Since I've put so much effort into it already, I'll do it anyway and keep hitting people over the head as plan B. Now, to summon a snake."

Dintiradan turned on the machine and glanced at a small display. Insert game, it read. Dintiradan slid Homeland into the slot. Choose creature to summon. Dintiradan carefully typed in the word snake. Select number of creatures to summon. Dintiradan punched in one. You have asked for one snake. Is that correct? Dintiradan typed in yes. Processing... please wait. Processing... please wait.

There was a small ding and large purplish snake fell out a compartment. Your order has been filled. Thank you and have a nice day!

The snake hissed at Dintiradan. Then it curled up and didn't move.

"What's wrong with it? Why isn't it attacking?" Dintiradan demanded.

"S... snakes are c... cold-bl... blooded creatures. It's p... probably t... too cold for it." The Lurker was shivering again.

"But if we could get it somewhere warm--like the General Forum--it would attack everything in sight, right?" Dintiradan asked.

"I th... think so."

"So all we have to do is figure out how to get a massive number of snakes from here to the General Forum. Hmm." Dintiradan paced the length of the forum. "I know... we'll put them on small planes and launch them into the Gen... nah, that's a stupid idea." Dintiradan paced some more. "There's plenty of spam, though. We'll light fires in each forum. The one here will be very small, just enough to get the snakes moving. The one in the Richard White Games Forum will be a bit larger, so that it will still be burning when the one in this forum goes out. The snakes will all migrate to that forum to stay warm. We'll do that for every forum until the snakes reach the General Forum. Then they'll attack, and in the confusion, we'll be able to take over the boards. It's that simple."

"That sounds like a lot of work," Wanderer said.

"Being this evil is not for the lazy," Dintiradan said, "It takes hard work!"

"But it's so far for the snakes to travel. All it takes is one fire to go out too soon, and our whole plan is messed up," Wanderer said.

"Hmm. Well, I suppose we could move the machine to the ruins of that mountain city in the Blades of Avernum Forum. That would shorten the distance down a lot. Let's do that." Dintiradan removed Homeland from the machine and turned it off. Then he began to disassemble the machine into manageable pieces.

"That sounds good ex... except f... for one l... little thing. H... how are we g... going to k... keep the snakes from attacking us?" the Lurker asked.

"Shoot. I knew I was forgetting something," Dintiradan said, "Well, we'll just move this and then go back to the General Forum to gather spam. By then, should I think up a way to protect ourselves."

Chapter 4: Many Returns

Chapter 4: Many Returns Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 19:38
Dintiradan, Wanderer, and the Lurker returned to the General Forum after setting up the machinery in the Blades of Avernum Forum.

"Now act casual," Dintiradan whispered, "Don't do anything to attract attention."

"Sure thing," Wanderer said.

"Of c... course. Achoo!" the Lurker said.

Meanwhile, Archmagus Micael wandered around, looking for Zephyr Tempest.

"Jewels, have you seen Zephyr Tempest lately?"

"No, I haven't. Sorry," Jewels said.

"Oh. Smoo, have you seen Zephyr Tempest recently?"

"No, but I'll help look for him with you," Smoo said, "You continue to look around here, and I'll start checking some of the other forums."

"Thank you!" Archmagus Micael said as Smoo walked towards the Tech Support Forum.

The Lurker approached Ephesos. "Could you... achoo! you... achoo!"

"You want a curing spell, right?" Ephesos asked.

The Lurker nodded.

"Wait, I've got this!" Nioca ran forward and cast a curing spell on the Lurker.

"Well, thanks, Nioca. I think," the Lurker said.

Ephesos was stunned. "You're... you're a priest?" he sputtered.

"Well, I'm not a very good one yet. But soon I will be!" Nioca said.

As Ephesos struggled to find something to say, there was a loud explosion from one of the side rooms.

"Um... I'm really, really ready to go to Room: Spidweb now," Lenar said from the room, "Before the Silent Assassin blows up something else."

Slartucker shut the Encyclopedia Ermariana. "I've done enough for now, so I'm ready. Ephesos?"

"Yes, I'm ready," Ephesos said, "Someone run upstairs and tell Alorael that we're leaving."

"I'll do it!" MagmaDragoon clanked upstairs. A short time later, he clanked back down. "Okay, he knows. You can go now."

"Thank you," Ephesos said. He opened the door. It was still snowing heavily and the snow on the ground was much deeper now. Ephesos stepped outside. "I've never seen this much snow here, not even during the Mountain of Shadows RP. It's not natural."

"Do you know what is causing it?" Lenar asked.

Ephesos shook his head. "I don't, but I'm going to find out. You three go on. I'm going to try and figure it out."

"All right. Don't stay outside too long," Slartucker said.

After Slartucker, Lenar, and the Silent Assassin trudged off, Ephesos pulled his green cloak tighter around him and moved out of range of Alorael's sniper rifle. He closed his eyes and concentrated. If there was evil magic behind this weather, he would sense it.

---

When Slartucker, Lenar, and the Silent Assassin were about halfway to Room: Spidweb, the snow stopped abruptly. The ground and the sky were completely clear.

"Well, this is interesting," Slartucker said.

"It seems that Ephesos was right when he said it wasn't natural," Lenar said.

They walked in silence until they arrived at a large building with many doors. One of the doors had a small plaque next to it that read Room: Spidweb. Lenar opened the door.

"Hey! It's Lenar, Slartucker, and the Silent Assassin. Welcome!" Tyranicus said.

"So how's it going?" Slartucker asked.

Tyranicus shrugged. "Not so good. It's been pretty quiet this whole time."

"Is Arancaytar asleep?" Slartucker pointed him out, huddled up in the corner and using his coat as a pillow.

Tyranicus sniggered at the sight. "Apparently so."

There was a very long silence.

"Where's Ephesos?" Lazarus finally asked.

"He didn't come," Slartucker said.

"Well, that's not okay. If his crickets aren't going to cover the silence for us, we're going to have to make sure there isn't any silence," Jumpin' Salmon said, "And it's rather silly that we're being so quiet. We can talk about whatever we want here without having to worry about the CoC. We can swear or talk about illegal activities or engage in personal atta..."

"You suck." Terror's Martyr leaned against the door frame with his arms folded across his chest and a sneer on his face.

"TM!" Jumpin' Salmon said, "I didn't see you come in!"

"And I didn't know you were going to be here, or I wouldn't have come, you ********* ***** of a ******* guppy!" Terror's Martyr said.

"Hey, it's TM. How have things been?" Ash Lael said.

Terror's Martyr stepped further into the room. "Fine. Or at least it would be fine if the ******* world wasn't so ******* full of ****** ******** idiots such as yourself."

"Are you going to respond like that to everything we say?" Tyranicus asked.

"What do you ********* think, you ******* moron?"

"Oh my. I'm not really sure I want to be here." Riibu stood at the entrance, debating whether to step inside or not.

"Who's that?" Lazarus asked.

"Riibu! Come on in! Where have you been?" Tyranicus said.

"Oh, look. Another ******* ****** idiot."

"Oh, just away. Is Arancaytar here? I saw that there was a chat going on and decided to check here first before I went all the way to the message boards."

Tyranicus pointed to the corner. "He's over there, but you'll have to wake him up."

"I'll do it." Mysterious Man threw an empty beer can at Arancaytar. It bounced off his head. He sat upright. "Huh? What's going on?"

"Arancaytar, I would like to know what you have planned for NaNoWriMo," Riibu said.

"Oh, sure." Arancaytar checked his watch. "Actually, I have to go check to make sure the statistics are still running. If you come along, I can show you what I have planned."

"Sure," Riibu said.

Riibu and Arancaytar stepped outside and began walking towards the Ermarian Network. Soon, they were back into the snow. A fierce wind blew huge snowflakes into their faces.

"Where's all this snow coming from?" Riibu asked.

"I don't know, but it's getting worse," Arancaytar said.

When they reached the Ermarian Network, they stepped inside gratefully, even though it was only marginally warmer inside than it was outside.

Arancaytar checked the machine the calculated the stats. "Yes, it stopped again. This will be easy to fix, though. Oh, and I've got my outline for my story lying around somewhere. Part of it, anyway."

Riibu looked around for the outline while Arancaytar grabbed some tools and began to repair the machine.

"I can't find it, Arancaytar." Riibu said at last.

Arancaytar put the tools away. "Now that I've fixed the statistics machine, I can look..." Arancaytar stopped speaking, for red light was flashing on the machine.

"What does that light mean?" Riibu asked.

"It means there's been a death. Let me check and see who it is. Give me a moment." Arancaytar quickly scrolled through some lists. "It's Zephyr Tempest. We should go back to the board now and find out what happened," Arancaytar said.

---

Ephesos hadn't moved. He stood almost knee-deep in the snow with his eyes closed and snow beginning to pile up on his shoulders and head. He sensed something unusual. It was very faint, but it was there. Now, if he could only figure out what it was.

"Ephesos!"

Startled, Ephesos opened his eyes and looked around. "Synergy! You're back!"

"Yes, life finally released me from its clutches so I can hang around for a short while," Synergy said, "Now shouldn't we go inside? I'm cold, and if you stand out here much longer, you'll freeze solid."

Ephesos brushed as much snow as possible off of himself. "Yes, of course. Lead the way. And make sure that Alorael recognizes you if you don't want to be sniped."

Chapter 5: The Calm Before...

Chapter 5: The Calm Before... Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 19:41
Alorael looked through the scope of his sniper rifle at two figures that had just rounded a corner. Ephesos and Synergy. Not pedestrians. Alorael frowned. He hated this weather. Very few pedestrians went out into it. Alorael was forced to resort to... well, Arctic Wolf and the bad weather weren't entirely to blame for the recent lack of newbs at Spiderweb. Alorael reached for a bottle of skribbane, only to discover that it had frozen again.

"This is ridiculous!" Alorael muttered, "No pedestrians and frozen skribbane? This foul weather has got to be stopped. Or better yet, never have begun in the first place. Yes, I think a trip to the Richard White Games Forum is in order."

Alorael shouldered his rifle, picked up the skribbane, and went downstairs. Ephesos and Synergy were warming themselves by the fire next to Enraged Slith and Frozen Feet. Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer were still collecting spam.

"Have you thought of a way to protect ourselves from the snakes yet?" whispered Wanderer.

"I have indeed. Behold!" Dintiradan produced the Harmonious Discord thread.

"But isn't that Tyranicus's?" the Lurker asked.

"So? He's not here right now. He won't miss it. Besides, once created, threads belong to everyone," Dintiradan said.

"But how will the thread help us?" Wanderer asked.

"The music will calm the snakes down if they get too close to us. Now, I think we have enough spam. Let's go," Dintiradan said.

Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer reached the door to the Tech Support Forum at the same time Alorael did.

"Where are you going?" Alorael asked.

"We're going to the Blades of Avernum Forum to, um, take a look at the, er, scenario I'm designing," Dintiradan said.

"I see."

"Now, where are you going?" Dintiradan asked.

"To the Richard White Games Forum." Alorael said.

"Good idea," said Student of Trinity.

"I want to come too," Rakshasi said.

Zorro looked up from Galactic Core. "I'll come as well."

The seven of them descended into the Tech Support Forum. One half of the forum was a garage, where tools and mechanical parts were stored. There were living tools, non-living tools, shovels, picks, locks, lockpicks, springs, wires, spare copies of every game (except Homeland), screws, screwdrivers, spellcheckers, spare ammunition for Alorael's sniper rifle, nuts, bolts, threadlocker, hammers, nails, a helium tank, gears, wheels, sellable trowels, unsellable trowels, and many other things too numerous to mention. There were also two crates. One held the disassembled Deth Ray. The other held the antimatter machine. The other half of the forum was a small infirmary. There were several beds and a large cupboard containing first aid kits, alchemical ingredients, and potions of every kind.

Next, they entered the Announcements Forum, a long, narrow hallway with large copies of the Code of Conduct pinned to the wall with brilliantly-colored posters advertising Geneforge 4 tacked between them. Occasionally, they passed the tattered and faded remains of older announcements. Then they passed the locked door that led to the Moderator Board.

"We haven't had a good quilting session in ages," Alorael muttered, "After I take care of the weather, I'll have to fix that."

Beyond the door to the Moderator Board was the Avernum 4 Forum. Torches lit the main path, but the multitude of side tunnels and passages were lost in darkness. Student of Trinity looked at all the spam that Wanderer and the Lurker were carrying.

"What's all that spam for?" he asked.

"To, uh, throw at Dintiradan if, um, his scenario isn't good enough," said the Lurker.

"Now that's an interesting idea. Odd, but interesting," Student of Trinity said.

They ducked under a line of yellow construction tape (the Geneforge 4 Forum was still under construction) and nearly collided with Delicious Vlish.

Delicious Vlish looked surprised to see them, but recovered quickly. "Have you seen Zephyr Tempest recently?" he asked.

"No. Why?" Rakshasi asked.

"Because Smoo came through, and he asked me to ask anyone who passed through," Delicious Vlish said.

"But what are you doing here?" Student of Trinity asked.

"I'm anticipating the release of Geneforge 4. Let me tell you, it's going to be a very good game. And melee has been much improved. Running up and clobbering things has never been so much fun."

"But now? The game still won't be out for a while," Rakshasi said.

"Heh. Well, let's just say that since melee has been improved, part of my anticipation includes a strenuous workout. You do not want to be on the receiving end of my feisty tentacle slap of pain now," Delicious Vlish said.

"I don't think I've ever wanted to receive a feisty tentacle slap of pain. Bye, Vlish," Student of Trinity said.

When they were gone, Delicious Vlish sighed in relief. "Thank goodness they didn't realize what I was really up to." He pulled out a bottle of moisturizing skin lotion and resumed rubbing it on himself. "No one would be scared of a vlish with dry, flaky skin, after all."

---

In the Blades of Avernum Forum, Smoo searched for Zephyr Tempest. "Zephyr! Zephyr! Are you here? Answer me!" he yelled. After searching the plains, he climbed the path that led to the mountains. "Zephyr! Where are you?"

Dintiradan, Wanderer, the Lurker, Alorael, Student of Trinity, Zorro, and Rakshasi entered.

"Come on, you two. Let's go, uh, play that scenario!" Dintiradan led the Lurker and Wanderer off towards the mountains.

"Zephyr Tempest! Answer if you can hear me!" Smoo yelled.

Dintiradan panicked. "Smoo's here! And it sounds like he's in the mountains! We must stop him from finding the summoning machine, even if we have to kill him, or else he could ruin everything!" Dintiradan pulled out Homeland and ran up the path. The Lurker and Wanderer dropped the spam they were carrying into a pile and ran after him.

---

In Room: Spidweb, the chat was finishing up.

Marlenny yawned. "I'm getting tired. When are we going to head back?"

Alec and Ash Lael listened to the insulting messages that Terror's Martyr wanted to give several people back on the boards.

"...and you can tell Emperor Tullegolar that he is nothing more than a brain-dead ****** ******, and Kingy that he is a ****** drunken *******, and Kelandon is a..."

"But you've already insulted him three times tonight," Ash Lael said.

"I have some ****** catch-up work to do!"

"Is everyone ready to head back?" Stareye asked.

"Wait," Tyranicus said. He grabbed the log of the chat. "Now I am."

"I'll guess we'll see you later then?" Lazarus asked TM.

"******** no, I have some insults to some ******* ****** I want to deliver personally."

"But you're banned!" Lazarus said.

"So? I'll just shout them when the ******** door opens," Terror's Martyr said.

With Tyranicus and Stareye leading, the group started back to the message boards. Terror's Martyr walked alongside Ash Lael and Alec. "Where was I?" he asked.

"Kelandon," Alec said.

"Oh, right. Tell that ******* ****** ****** that..."

"I'm right here! I can hear you!" Kelandon said. He and Marlenny were walking hand-in-hand just a few feet away.

"Why the ******* do I ****** care?"

Chapter 6: ...The Even Bigger Storm

Chapter 6: ...The Even Bigger Storm Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:21
Alorael, Zorro, Rakshasi, and Student of Trinity entered the Richard White Games Forum. At first glance, the forum appeared to be fairly normal. But upon closer inspection, everything appeared slightly insubstantial, like it didn't exist, though a moment ago it did and a moment later it will. There also wasn't much furniture or decoration. Perhaps no one had bothered to bring any down to such a small forum dedicated to mediocre-to-terrible games. Or perhaps the needle/ferrets had run off with them. Or perhaps the cultists relied on their implants to will have placed what they will have needed when they will have entered. In any case, the only thing in the room was a poster that read Galactic Core 2 is coming! And so is forum number 6,432,766,349,448,872,395,334,773!

Zorro sat on the ground and placed Galactic Core in front of him. He closed his eyes and chanted, "Long live Icshi! Long live Icshi! Long live Icshi!"

"I am Icshi that was and will be, but am not. Why have you called me?" a faint apparition asked.

"I'm tired of playing Galactic Core by myself. I'm challenging you to a game," Zorro said.

"Excellent." Icshi's apparition sat down opposite Zorro.

Meanwhile, Alorael stood and waited patiently. His implants would tell him how to retroactively prevent the snow storm from having ever occurred.

Rakshasi strode boldly to the center of the room. "I nominate myself to be Pope John XX, the pope that never was and never will be."

Alorael was slightly annoyed that Rakshasi was making it more difficult for his implants to tell him anything, but he said nothing.

"Hmm. Even a lowly Imponderable Archon like myself knows where that position should belong in the hierarchy," Student of Trinity said.

"Second-in-command only to our Beloved Leader Icshi?"

"No, I was thinking more along the lines of just below Ponderable Archon. I mean, it sounds interesting and all, but what do you actually do?"

"I save Lost Souls from eternal damnation," Rakshasi said.

Alorael said, "Would you mind being quiet? I'm concentrating here!"

"Fine. I'm going off to spam the SubTerra Forum until it's so trashed they have to remove it and this forum regains its place of honor as the lowest of the low," Rakshasi said.

"Didn't you hear me? I said I'm trying to concentrate. You wouldn't want me to accidentally make it so it's been retroactively snowing for three days, would you?"

Zorro looked up from the game. "What do you mean, Alorael? It has been snowing for three days."

---

Suddenly, Ephesos leapt upright. "It's the Cult! The Cult has something to do with this weather! Why didn't I sense it before?" he said.

"Which cult? There's many of them," Jewels asked.

"The Richard White one, of course," Ephesos said, "I'm going to have a talk with them." Ephesos, obviously furious, left to go confront whoever was in the Richard White Games Forum.

"Should we let him go alone?" Nioca asked, "What if the Cultists try and hurt him?"

"Hurt Ephesos? Nah, they couldn't do that," Kingy said.

"But he might hurt them if he decides to cast divine retribution first and ask questions later," Fatman chortled.

"Would he really do that?" Synergy asked.

"Dikiyoba thinks he might!"

"Then we should make sure he doesn't. Let's follow him," Synergy said.

Synergy and Dikiyoba also left for the Richard White Games Forum.

---

Outside, the snow dominated. No matter where one looked, it was all a smooth blanket of white. The message board was almost buried in huge snowdrifts. And the snowflakes continued to fall, driven here and there by the wind. The snow had become the winter equivalent of Imban: everything and everywhere.

Arancaytar stumbled and fell into a snow bank taller than he was. Riibu helped him out.

"Come on. We can't stop now. It's not much farther."

"I know, but there's a path back to the Ermarian Network," Arancaytar said, "So it'll be easier to turn around."

Riibu shook her head doubtfully. "Not at the rate it's been snowing. Besides, we have to tell the others about Zephyr Tempest."

"Yes, of course." Arancaytar took a few quick steps and sank up to his middle. "Hmm. Nephilim are much lighter and more nimble than humans. I wonder if they can run across the snow without sinking in."

"I don't know. Here, I'll lead for a while." Riibu pushed ahead.

"Thanks. I... achoo! Oh, great."

They struggled through the snow in silence for a while, punctuated occasionally by a sneeze from Arancaytar. Finally, he muttered, "I wish I were my generic role-playing character, Eferas. He's a pyromancer. One good... achoo! ...firebolt would take care of this snow. Achoo!"

"It doesn't matter anymore. We're here." Riibu shoved and kicked snow out of the way of the door. Arancaytar quickly joined in. When they had a fair amount cleared away, Arancaytar tried to open the door. It wouldn't budge.

Riibu groaned. "What's wrong with it? It can't possibly be locked can it?"

Arancaytar hammered on the door. "Open up! Let us in! Achoo!"

Jewels was the first to hear them. She approached the door and tried to pull it open. It still wouldn't budge.

"Open the door!" Arancaytar yelled.

"I'm trying, but I can't get it open!" Jewels said, "The door's frozen shut."

"Here." Frozen Feet approached the door with a piece of burning spam. He held it close to the door until enough of the ice had melted away that Jewels could wrench the door open.

Riibu and Arancaytar practically fell inside. Jewels helped them up and guided them to the fire while Frozen Feet closed the door. Enraged Slith added more spam to the fire.

Arancaytar started to speak, but Jewels shushed him. "No, don't talk until you warm up. Although I really hope the others had enough sense to stay inside."

Chapter 7: Shadow Vale

Chapter 7: Shadow Vale Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:22
Unfortunately, those who were at the chat room were already a fair distance away from the chat room when the retroactive snow hit, and the snow was still coming down.

Marlenny floundered in the snow. "Whose idea was it to do this, anyway?" she asked as Kelandon helped her up.

"That ****** ******* ********, Tyranicus."

"Well, you chose to come!" Tyranicus retorted.

Stareye shook his head. "We'll never be able to make it through this snow back to the message board. We'll have to turn around and wait the storm out in the chat room."

"Turn around?" Lazarus asked.

"No, wait. Shadow Vale is nearby. We can go there instead," Tyranicus said, "What do you think?"

"I think it's a terrible idea, but I just want to get out of this ********* weather," Alec said.

"All right. Lead the way, Tyranicus," Stareye said.

---

Ephesos burst into the Richard White Games Forum. "Why did you mess with the weather?" he demanded.

Student of Trinity looked surprised. "What do you mean? We haven't done anything."

"But I sensed it!"

Student of Trinity shook his head. "Your implants must need adjusting."

"I don't have implants!" Ephesos said.

"Everyone has implants. You just aren't aware of them yet. Your move, Icshi," Zorro said.

"But Icshi's not here. He's dead," Ephesos said. He looked around carefully, but could see no sign of Icshi.

"You're right. He isn't here. But he was here and he will be here," Zorro said, "As your implants should have told you."

Ephesos sighed. Trying to get sensible answers from a cult member was infuriatingly difficult. "Right. So I know that the cult has affected the weather in some way. If you had anything to do with it or know anything about it, fess up. Now."

"We wouldn't do anything like that. Right, Alorael?" Student of Trinity asked.

Synergy and Dikiyoba slipped in unnoticed as Alorael muttered something, but Ephesos only caught two phrases of it: "needle/ferrets do strange and terrible things" and "never double posted in my life".

"And Zorro couldn't care less about anything but his game," Student of Trinity said.

"Where's Rakshasi?" Ephesos asked.

"He went to go spam the SubTerra Forum," Student of Trinity said.

"Then I shall go speak with him," Ephesos said.

Just then, Rakshasi ran into the forum. "Zephyr Tempest! He's dead!" he said.

"Dead? How? What happened to him?" Student of Trinity asked.

"I don't know exactly. He doesn't look hurt at all, but he's dead."

"I'll run back and tell a mage to summon his element. Does anyone know what he had?" Synergy said.

Everyone turned to look at him and Dikiyoba in surprise. "When did you get here?" Student of Trinity asked.

Synergy shrugged. "Just now."

Zorro sighed. "I'm not giving up my game this time. It's his own fault he died. He'll have to wait until I'm finished."

"Wait." Ephesos reached into a pocket. There was an angry chirrup. "Oops. Wrong pocket. Here it is." Ephesos reached into another pocket and pulled out a blue Balm of Life potion. "I have been studying the return life spell. Rakshasi, show me where he is."

Student of Trinity, Synergy, and Dikiyoba followed Ephesos and Rakshasi into the SubTerra Forum. Zorro remained behind to finish his game, and Alorael stayed behind to try and undo the retroactive storm he had accidentally created.

---

Out in the storm, the small group finally reached Shadow Vale. Tyranicus pulled the door open and gestured everyone inside. "It's not much, but at least it's warm," he said.

"It's so dark in here," FBM said.

"There are probably some lamps or candles around here somewhere," Tyranicus said.

"Seriously, this is worse than the Avernum 4 Forum. It's flippin' dark in here. I can't see a thing. Hey, who did I just bump into?" Jumpin' Salmon said.

"Get the ******** away from me, you fishbrained ******* *********."

"I see. So, how long are we going to be stuck here?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"As long as necessary," Stareye said calmly.

"That... that long?" Jumpin' Salmon said. "But... but I need to be back at the message boards. I have spamming I need to do! And Marlenny has a census she has to post. And I need to spam!" Jumpin' Salmon ran around in a blind panic, bumping into Lazarus and running into a table. "Oof. Okay, moving around in the dark is a bad idea."

"What about food?" Marlenny asked, "Do we have any?"

"I don't think so," Tyranicus said.

"So what will we do? We could be stuck here for a very long time, because it's still snowing outside," the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"First one to die gets eaten!" Thuryl said.

"That's terrible!" Marlenny said.

"Relax, it won't come to that. We probably won't even have to resort to eating spam. And there's plenty to do here while we wait. I have a library, we could read some books," Tyranicus said.

"Except that it's completely dark, doofus," Kelandon said.

"Or I could put on some music."

"No one wants to listen to the game music," Alec said.

"Or we could play BoA Scenarios. I've got a full collection."

"Blades of Exile is so much better than Blades of Avernum," Ash Lael said.

"Well, I don't have any BoE scenarios, so we'll have to make do. How about Dilecia?"

"That's a ***** piece of ******."

"Hey!" Lazarus said.

"A Good Beginning?"

"No, it's ****** *********."

"How about Bahssikava?"

"That is a putrid piece of ****** ****** made by a worthless ********* ****** of a designer and is only exceeded in ******* ******* by its ******** sequel."

"Fine. How about Echoes: Renegade?"

"Too easy," Terror's Martyr said.

"Work with me here, TM. It's not like I'm suggesting Cresent Valley," Tyranicus said.

"DIE!"

There was a thump as Tyranicus collapsed.

"One down, fourteen more to go!" Thuryl said.

Chapter 8: Rats Aplenty

Chapter 8: Rats Aplenty Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:24
In the General Forum, Arancaytar and Riibu finally stopped shivering to the point where they could speak.

"Drakefyre! Drake... achoo!" Arancaytar began.

"What is it?" Drakefyre asked.

"Arancaytar's statistics say that Zephyr Tempest is dead," Riibu said.

"Oh no! That's what I was afraid of when I couldn't find him!" Archmagus Micael said.

"All right everyone, when was the last time you saw Zephyr Tempest, and what was he doing?" Drakefyre asked.

There was silence as everyone tried to remember the last time they saw him.

"I saw him talking to Dintiradan a couple of hours ago." Randomizer stood on tiptoe and looked around the forum. "But I don't see him either."

"I saw him not too long ago. He was with the Lurker and Wanderer, collecting spam," MagmaDragoon said.

"Did you see Zephyr Tempest?" Archmagus Micael asked.

MagmaDragoon shook his head. "No."

"Then it sounds like I'm going to have to investigate," Drakefyre said.

"Smoo went out to look for Zephyr Tempest. Do we wait for him to come back or start our own search?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"Start our own. You and Randomizer will come with me. The rest of you stay here. The mods are here if anything comes up. Now, does anyone remember anything else?"

There was silence, broken only by a sneeze from Arancaytar.

"Okay, then. Archmagus Micael, Randomizer, follow me."

Drakefyre and the two mages left.

---

In the Blades of Avernum Forum, Smoo discovered the summoning machine. "Zephyr Tempest? Zephyr Tempest! Hey, what's this?" Smoo was intrigued. What did this machine do? He examined it closely.

Insert game, the display read. Smoo happened to have his BoA scenarios with him, so he dropped one in.

Choose creature to summon, the display read. Smoo hesitated for a moment, then typed in rats. Select number of creatures to summon. Smoo typed in aplenty. You have asked for rats aplenty. Is that correct? Smoo typed in yes. Processing... please wait. Processing... please wait.

Smoo was puzzled. Surely, it couldn't actually summon rats aplenty?

A small red rat slid out of the machine and launched itself at Smoo in a blur of speed. It began gnawing on his boot. Smoo simply shook his foot, and the red rat went sailing through the air. Then he began to look for a cancel or off button. He couldn't find one. While he searched, a few giant rats popped out of the machine. They scampered off. Smoo typed cancel. Unknown command, the display read.

"What do you mean, 'unknown command'? How am I supposed to turn this thing off?" Smoo said. He reached into the slot where he had dropped the scenario and tried to pull the scenario out.

The machine created a giant white rat. The rat raised its paws into casting position and was about to send a massive firebolt in Smoo's direction when it caught sight of Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer running towards the summoning machine. The rat chose to scamper into the shadows instead.

No matter how hard Smoo pulled, the scenario wouldn't budge. Suddenly, Dintiradan grabbed him and pulled him away.

"What do you think you're doing?" Dintiradan yelled.

"I'm trying to turn this thing off!"

The summoning machine created a blue rat the size of a large dog. It lumbered towards them, fangs bared and naked tail twitching.

"You didn't!" Dintiradan gasped, "And after all my planning and preparing to create a plague of snakes, too! You fool!"

Smoo drew his sword and turned to face the rat. "I'll take care of the rat, and you turn that machine off."

The machine created another red rat, which sprang at the Lurker. The Lurker kicked it away.

"But I can't just cancel the order or turn it off! I designed this machine so that it couldn't be disabled by any heroes! No off button, no cancel option, no plugs that can be pulled, and it's impervious to damage from weapons, magic, and hacking!" Dintiradan said.

"So what are we going to do?" Smoo asked.

"Well, the summoning machine will stop eventually, either because it has created rats aplenty or because it finally runs out of energy to create more. Unfortunately, I don't know when one of those things will happen. It could be days and millions of rats later. So, I'm going to do what any good evil overlord does when things go wrong. Run!" Dintiradan fled.

"Hey, wait up!" Wanderer said. He and the Lurker followed.

"Come back here!" Smoo yelled. He easily dodged the blue rat's attack and stabbed it. The rat snarled and attempted to bite Smoo again. Smoo dodged and stabbed at the rat again.

The machine spit out another red rat. As Smoo attempted to evade the blue rat's next attack, the red rat ran under his feet and tripped him. Smoo crushed the red rat beneath him when he fell. He was halfway up before the blue rat managed to sink its fangs into his leg. Smoo stabbed the rat for a third time, and it finally died.

Smoo freed his leg and got up to stumble away, only to discover that the white rat, flanked by several giant rats, was blocking the path. The white rat seemed to be smiling. "I don't think so!" it squeaked.

Behind them, the summoning machine created an exceptionally gigantic and ugly rat. Smoo gulped.

Chapter 9: The Trap Is Set

Chapter 9: The Trap Is Set Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:27
Student of Trinity looked around the SubTerra Forum. It was almost entirely covered in a layer of spam. "Wow, Rakshasi, you sure were busy."

"Yeah, I know," Rakshasi said as he led Ephesos over to the corner where he had discovered Zephyr Tempest's body.

Ephesos shook his head. "This stuff is incredibly flammable. The whole forum could go up in flames with just a spark."

"That was kind of the point," Rakshasi said.

"Ah, spam. It hides all the useful and important posts, just as the veneer of illusions we set around ourselves when we are with others hides our inner selves," Synergy said.

Ephesos knelt by Zephyr Tempest and carefully poured the balm of life potion over him. Then Ephesos closed his eyes and began to mutter an incantation. Finally, there was a flash of white light. Zephyr Tempest opened his eyes.

"Ephesos? What happened?" he asked.

"That's what I was going to ask you. But first, how do you feel?" Ephesos asked.

"I'm fine now, I suppose. But being dead was unimaginably horrific. For the first time in my life, I was cold. There were snakes everywhere, and hordes of noobs, and strange creatures like SnowPuffs and skritts." Zephyr Tempest shuddered.

"That sounds like Homeland. How did you die?" Rakshasi asked.

"It probably was. I was helping Dintiradan, Wanderer, and the Lurker with a summoning machine. I thought they were making it so there didn't always have to be a mage to summon elements, but then Dintiradan pulled out a copy of Homeland. I tried to stop them, but they killed me."

"An Evil Overlord, a summoning machine, and Homeland? This doesn't bode well," Student of Trinity said.

"Right. We need to stop them immediately." Ephesos led the group back to the Richard White Games Forum.

Zorro stared at Galactic Core despondently. "I lost. I can't believe I lost. I thought I had Ischi beat, but he called upon the power of the White One and beat me."

"Alorael," Ephesos said.

"What?" Alorael said.

"Dintiradan is up to no good. We have to stop him any way we can," Ephesos said.

Alorael grabbed his sniper rifle and ran from the forum. "Dibs!" he yelled.

Zephyr Tempest followed. "Hey, wait! I'm the one they murdered, I should be the one to take them out!"

"Isn't that a little harsh?" Synergy asked.

"Not for messing with Homeland it isn't," Rakshasi said.

---

Alorael and Zephyr Tempest jogged through the Avernum Trilogy Forum. The others followed a short distance behind.

Zephyr Tempest wiped sweat off his forehead. "Whew! It's hot in here!"

Compared to the other forums, this was true. The Avernum Trilogy Forum was warmed by geothermic vents, which had the unfortunate side effect of occasional lava flows and making the whole forum smell of sulfur.

Alorael halted at the base of a small hill. "You wait here, I'll look around." He climbed to the top of the hill and carefully scanned the forum. Nothing.

Then a figure entered the forum, chased by several giant rats. Alorael quickly got into sniping position. Soon, all the rats had been sniped. The figure approached. It was Smoo.

"Thank you! I don't think I could have outrun the rats much longer!"

"What happened, Smoo?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

Smoo looked nervous. "I accidentally ended up summoning rats from a strange summoning machine. I tried to disable it, and almost succeeded, but there were too many rats. But I bet there are enough of us that we could disable it. At least, we have to try. Otherwise there will be too many rats for anyone to deal with!"

"A plague of rats? Oh well. At least it's better than anything from Homeland," Rakshasi said.

Synergy glanced at Smoo suspiciously. "Does anyone think there is anything odd about this?"

Everyone thought for a moment.

"Dikiyoba doesn't think so. Why?" Dikiyoba said.

"Oh, never mind. Lead the way, Smoo," Synergy said.

No one noticed that a red rat had observed the whole scene. Now it ran off towards the Blades of Avernum Forum.

---

The white rat stood on a large boulder in the mountains, directing all the other rats. Four blue rats were moving the summoning machine to a different and safer location. "Be very careful with that! It is our key to victory! Without it, there will be no more reinforcements! With it, we shall overwhelm the humans and rule the world!"

The red rat ran up to the white rat. "Vengeance Made Flesh!"

"Yes?" the white rat asked.

"The wererat has made contact with eight humans. They will be here soon."

"Excellent! Prepare for the ambush! Blue rats, you will be the first line of attack. Green rats, you will stay hidden in the rocks and fire curse rays down on the humans. Red rats, you will run around the fight and gather on the path behind them so that they can't escape. Mung rats and giant rats, just fill in wherever you are needed."

"Plague of Humans!" a giant rat said, "What do you want us to do with this human?" The giant rat pointed to the real Smoo, unconscious and tied up.

"You three, move him somewhere where he won't be found. And guard him closely so he can't escape. I'll be along shortly to question him."

"Of course, One of Many." The three giant rats dragged Smoo off.

The white rat turned to a gigantic wererat beside it. "You will be in charge of the ambush. Now, I must be off! Remember, show no mercy! Do not retreat! We will wipe these humans out and create a haven for rats everywhere! We will never again have to fear cats, dogs, traps, poison, or lab experiments!"

The rats emitted a very squeaky cheer in approval.

Chapter 10: Attorosi

Chapter 10: Attorosi Dikiyoba Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:30
It was still dark in Shadow Vale. Tyranicus's body had been moved so that no one would trip over it. There had been a brief flurry of spamming, headed by Jumpin' Salmon, but now it was silent as well.

"Is it still snowing?" Lazarus asked.

"Yes. I doubt we could even open the door now, the snow is so deep," FBM said.

"I wonder how the fluffy turtles are doing," the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said, "Because of this weather, there aren't any newbs and therefore no sanity for them to eat."

Slartucker sighed. "I can't believe I'm stuck here. I could be doing something useful."

"Cheer up, Slarty. It'll be all right." Jumpin' Salmon looked around (as best he could in the dark). "Now, has anyone seen Marlenny or Kelandon recently?"

"Yes, they gathered up a few handfuls of spam and, um, retreated to a quiet corner," Lazarus said.

"Kel and Mar alone... away from everyone else... with spam?! Now I am highly disturbed," Jumpin' Salmon said loudly, "I don't even want to think about what they're doing."

Suddenly, there were a few orange flickers from the far corner of the room. A moment later, the flickers were replaced by a steady glow.

"Ha! I knew we could get a fire going!" Kelandon said.

"You got a fire going just by rubbing pieces of spam together? Impressive," Ash Lael said, coming to sit by it.

"Yep." Marlenny threw a few more pieces of spam onto the small fire.

"So... yeah... that's okay, I guess," Jumpin' Salmon said.

The Silent Assassin tapped Lenar on the shoulder and held his stomach.

"The Silent Assassin is hungry. Or about to be ill. Or he really hates the Governor of Nebraska, I'm not really sure which. But more than likely, he's hungry."

"Well, there's plenty of spam lying about!" Jumpin' Salmon said.

Lenar watched the Silent Assassin carefully. "He says it tastes fishy."

"I'm offended," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"The Silent Assassin is delighted," Lenar said.

"Fine. I'm just going to sulk in the corner here." Jumpin' Salmon sat down and stared into space. A moment later, he pulled out some papers. "I know! I'll take the cool Internet quizzes I have with me. The Silent Assassin will never know what type of dancing banana graemlin he is."

---

In the Geneforge 4 Forum, Delicious Vlish heard footsteps from the Avernum 4 Forum. Muttering, he hid the moisturizing skin cream. "What is with everyone today? Why can't I get some time alone?"

Drakefyre, Randomizer, and Archmagus Micael entered.

"Vlish!" Drakefyre said.

"What?"

"Have you seen Dintiradan, the Lurker, or Wanderer lately?"

"Yes. They came through not too long ago with..." Delicious Vlish stopped, for he could hear footsteps coming from the Geneforge Forum. And what sounded like squeaking.

Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer stumbled into the forum. A few red rats were biting and scratching at their feet. A mung rat and several green rats entered behind them. One of the red rats managed to trip Dintiradan, and the Lurker tripped over him. Wanderer hesitated, unsure of what to do, until a curse ray from one of the green rats knocked him down.

"Rats!" Randomizer said, "Spray acid!"

A round of spray acid from Randomizer, firebolts from Archmagus Micael, and arcane blow from Drakefyre took care of all the rats.

"Hmph. I didn't even get a chance to try out my new feisty tentacle slap of pain," Delicious Vlish said.

Dintiradan got halfway up, and then collapsed again. "So weak... stupid curse rays..."

Drakefyre strode over and hauled Dintiradan upright. "What did you do?" he asked.

"Smoo summoned them, not me!" Dintiradan protested.

Randomizer, Archmagus Micael, and Delicious Vlish formed a ring around the three miscreants so they couldn't escape.

"Tell me everything. Now," Drakefyre said.

"There's this summoning machine in the mountains of the BoA Forum. Smoo summoned the rats from his scenario. I tried to stop him, but I didn't get there in time. That's all I know," Dintiradan said.

"You made that summoning machine, didn't you?" Drakefyre said.

Dintiradan didn't say anything.

"You have to tell me how to turn it off," Drakefyre said.

"You can't," Dintiradan said flatly, "Otherwise, I would have done so already."

"What happened to Smoo?" Randomizer asked.

"I don't know," Dintiradan said.

"And Zephyr Tempest?" asked Archmagus Micael.

"What about him?" Dintiradan asked.

"How did he die?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"He's dead? Well, I don't know anything about that," Dintiradan feigned surprise.

"I don't believe you. Unfortunately, I can't spend any more time here." Drakefyre waved his hand, and magical shackles materialized around the wrists of Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer. "Randomizer, Archmagus Micael, you will lead these three back to the General Forum, where they will be separated and guarded until I return. Don't hesitate to cast spells on them if they try to escape. Understand?"

"Yes," Randomizer said. Randomizer and Archmagus Micael led Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer away.

"Now what do we do?" the Lurker whispered.

"When we get to the General Forum, I'll sneak out my Evil Overlord book and read up on... my book!" Dintiradan suddenly stopped and, with difficulty, searched his pockets for the book. "I lost my book!"

"That's too bad. Now keep moving," Randomizer said. He pushed Dintiradan into the Avernum 4 Forum.

"But... but... I don't have my book! What am I supposed to do without it?" Dintiradan asked.

"Delicious Vlish, will you come with me to scout out the Blades of Avernum Forum and discover what the rats are like?" Drakefyre asked.

"Of course," Delicious Vlish said.

---

Smoo awoke slowly. The last thing he remembered was trying to fend off the wererat while under a slow spell from the white rat. Then there had been a faint rumble from above and everything went black. Smoo guessed that a rat had knocked some rocks down onto him.

"Look! He's starting to come around."

"I'll go tell Slayer of Humans."

Smoo opened his eyes in time to see a giant rat scamper off. Two others stared at him with beady eyes. One started to speak, but the other cut it off.

"Silence! Spirit Born doesn't want us conversing with the prisoner," it said.

"You can talk!" Smoo said.

The rats just stared at him.

"Are we allowed to answer that, at least?" the first rat asked. The second rat shushed it.

Smoo attempted to move, only to discover that his arms and legs had been securely bound. After a few minutes of attempting to wriggle free, he gave up. "How did a bunch of rats learn to tie such difficult knots?" he muttered.

"I tied every one of those knots," the first rat said proudly, "I learned all about them from the little wharf rats who spend their entire lives on ships and docks. There are many ropes and knots in those places."

"What did I just tell you about talking to prisoners?" the second rat hissed.

"Oh. Sorry."

A moment later, the third giant rat returned with the white rat.

The white rat looked Smoo over. "Greetings, puny human. I am Slayer of Humans, One of Many, Spirit Born, Savior of Rats, Plague of Humans, Vengeance Made Flesh, Restorer of Rat Ways, Terror of Mankind..."

"Attorosi," Smoo said grimly.

"How did you know that? Never mind," the rat white said, "Anyway, you are our prisoner now. I need information. You will give it to me, if you wish to be spared when the rest of your kind is destroyed."

"No."

"No? Well, I'll leave you here for now. You'll change your mind soon. Like when you hear the dying screams of the first group of people to meet the end they deserve." Attorosi stalked off. "Foolish human. Humans never do what is sensible. I can still get the information I need, though. I have plenty of red rats to act as scouts." Attorosi muttered to itself all the way back to the rat lair.

In the rat lair, two more white rats were examining a book closely. It was Dintiradan's Guide to Becoming an Evil Overlord.

"Savior of Rats!" one of them said.

"What is it?" Attorosi said.

"We found this book. It appears to be full of instructions for how humans can better control the world."

"In that case, study it closely. Perhaps we can learn something from it," Attorosi said.

---

In the General Forum, Nikki and Emperor Tullegolar sat slumped against the wall.

Emperor Tullegolar stared at everyone with distaste. "Weaklings and fools, all of them. If I were an administrator, I'd show them a thing or five."

Nikki watched Riibu and Arancaytar through narrowed eyes. "Look at them, talking about Runescape. I don't have a chance at Aran with Riibu around." Nikki sighed. "I'm afraid I'll never get him to love me."

"Love is for the weak," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"No, it's not!" Nikki said.

"Of course it is. Look at you, moping around. 'Waah, I'll never get him to love me.' Pathetic."

"I don't see you doing anything, so that must make you weak as well," Nikki said.

Emperor Tullegolar looked highly offended. "You dare to call me weak? As it so happens, I have a plan. A good plan that your poor, weak, lovesick mind couldn't possibly understand." Emperor Tullegolar jumped up and stalked off.

Nikki sighed again. "Life is so unfair. Aran doesn't like me now that Riibu is back. And Nicothodes has been gone for almost two months now. I miss her trying to stab me with her pencil every time I called her cute." Nikki sighed yet again. "Maybe Emperor Tullegolar's right. Maybe I am being weak by just sitting around. Maybe I could do something that would make Aran notice me. But what?" Nikki thought for a moment. "Of course! I'll get rid of Riibu! But how?" Nikki thought for a while, and then drew out a mechanical pencil that he had stolen from Nicothodes. "If it works for Nico, it'll work for me." Nikki stood up and started walking towards the Tech Support Forum. "And I'm going to make absolutely sure that this will work."

Chapter 11: The Trap Is Sprung

Chapter 11: The Trap Is Sprung Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 00:10
Smoo led Synergy, Ephesos, Rakshasi, Alorael, Dikiyoba, Student of Trinity, Zorro, and Zephyr Tempest up to the small clearing in the mountains where the summoning machine had been. Now it was silent and seemingly deserted.

"I thought you said that the summoning machine was here," Synergy told Smoo.

"There was! They must have moved it," Smoo said.

"I believe him," Ephesos said. He and Dikiyoba were carefully examining the ground for signs of the rats' activities. "They tried to cover it up, but there were rats here, and lots of them. I just don't know how they got the summoning machine out of here, because they didn't take it down the path we came up."

Dikiyoba followed some tracks across the clearing and into the rocks. "Dikiyoba thinks there may be a small path... yahhh!" Dikiyoba stumbled back as a blue rat lunged out.

Alorael quickly aimed his sniper rifle at the blue rat and fired. Incredibly, the rat staggered a bit but kept coming.

"What! That's not possible!" Alorael said. He fired again. This time, the rat died. Alorael was immediately hit by three or four curse rays simultaneously from the green rats in the rocks above. He was knocked to the ground.

Student of Trinity pulled out his sling and launched a rock at one of the rats, knocking it from its position. Several more green rats hit Student of Trinity with curse rays. Several blue rats lumbered out of their hiding places, followed by giant and mung rats.

Zorro tucked Galactic Core safely into his pocket. "This should be an interesting fight." He drew his sword and stabbed a mung rat.

"It's a trap!" Synergy turned to leave, only to find Smoo and several red rats blocking the path. "I don't think so." Smoo drew his sword and attacked.

"I knew it! You're not the real Smoo. You led us into this ambush on purpose," Synergy managed to get his sword out in time to parry the attack.

"I've got this under control," Smoo told the red rats, "Go join the attack."

The red rats dashed into the fray.

Zephyr Tempest cast ice lances on several rats. Ephesos cast divine retribution. Alorael and Student of Trinity had recovered from the curse rays and were sniping and slinging rats respectively. Dikiyoba went after some of the giant rats. Rakshasi and Zorro teamed up to battle the blue rats. As one turned to attack Zorro, Rakshasi stabbed it from the other side. The blue rat would then turn to attack Rakshasi, but then Zorro would stab it. This worked well until Rakshasi tripped over one of the red rats that were scampering around. He yelled as the blue rat bit him.

"Rakshasi!" Zorro stabbed the blue rat again. The blue rat started to attack him, but a bolt of divine retribution hit it. The blue rat died. Zorro kept the giant rats at bay while Ephesos cast a quick heal spell on Rakshasi and helped him get back up.

Meanwhile, Synergy and Smoo were still dueling and Alorael was sniping at the green rats from behind Student of Trinity so he didn't have to worry about getting hit by the curse rays. Student of Trinity did, though.

"Argh! Not again!" Student of Trinity staggered from the ray and the rock he had just fired landed several feet away from the rat he had been aiming for.

Zephyr Tempest was about to cast another ice lances spell when another of the red rats tripped him. He leapt back up and tried to cast ice lances on it, but missed.

"Someone kill these red rats!" he said.

Dikiyoba pulled out a haste potion and drank it. "Dikiyoba can do that!" Dikiyoba charged after a red rat.

Another two curse rays hit Student of Trinity. "So... weak... can't... take... any..." Student of Trinity fainted.

A curse ray hit Alorael. "Hey! That's no fair!" Alorael searched for a safer spot to snipe from.

"Ice lances!" Zephyr Tempest said. A blast of ice froze four giant rats.

"RETRIBUTION!!!" Ephesos yelled.

The wererat watched the bolts of energy strike seven or eight rats and once and realized that it was time to make its move. It launched itself at Ephesos from its hiding spot high in the rocks.

"RETRIBAHHHHHH!!!"

The wererat landed directly on Ephesos and began clawing him. Alorael stopped to aim his sniper rifle at the wererat, but three curse rays hit him at once. He was knocked into the rock wall and didn't get up.

"Ice lances!" Zephyr Tempest said. The wererat was hurt, but it didn't stop its attack.

"Retributi..." Ephesos began, but his voice gave out before he could finish the spell. He shuddered once and lay still. The wererat then lunged at Zephyr Tempest.

Zephyr Tempest stumbled back. "No! Ice lances! I refuse to die again! Ice lances!"

---

While the battle was taking place, Drakefyre and Delicious Vlish were searching the Blades of Avernum Forum. They had seen several rats, but all of them were red and so impossible to keep up with and track back to their hiding place. Suddenly, Delicious Vlish stopped and held up a tentacle.

"Do you hear that?" he asked.

Drakefyre listened carefully. "Sounds like yelling. And squeaking. Someone's fighting rats. It's coming from the mountains. Let's go."

Drakefyre and Delicious Vlish hurried up the mountain path. They were about halfway up when they heard Ephesos yell as the wererat landed on him.

"Faster!" Drakefyre broke into a sprint.

Chapter 12: Lovesick and Twisted

Chapter 12: Lovesick and Twisted Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 00:10
In the Tech Support Forum, Nikki headed straight for the cabinet full of potions. He put on a pair of heavy gloves and began searching through the potions. "I don't believe it. Surely there must be one poison potion in here. Aha!" Nikki grabbed the bottle and uncorked it. He was in the process of taking the mechanical pencil apart when the door between the Announcements and Tech Support forums swung open. Nikki quickly threw himself behind the cabinet as Randomizer entered, pushing Dintiradan along.

"Unhand me, you fool. I can walk just fine!" Dintiradan snapped.

The Lurker and Wanderer were following behind Randomizer, closely watched by Archmagus Micael. None of them noticed Nikki. After they had entered the General Forum, Nikki crawled back out. Carefully, he finished taking the pencil apart. Then he dipped the graphite into the potion. The potion fizzed and hissed when the graphite hit it.

---

In the General Forum, Emperor Tullegolar paced back and forth, thinking. Though the oldbies were weak individually, they were very powerful together. Emperor Tullegolar stood no chance of overthrowing them and becoming Emperor of the boards unless he could split the oldbies up and gain a powerful following of his own. Carefully planned flamefests would distract the oldbies temporarily when the time was right. Gathering a following was more difficult. The oldbies certainly wouldn't help him, so he would have to rely on newbs. But this snow meant that there were no newb arriving. Somehow, Emperor Tullegolar had to ensure that the snow stopped. He had no idea how, but it had to be done. In the meantime, there were a few people he could bend to his will. He approached Nioca.

"Hello, Emperor Tullegolar. How are you doing?" Nioca asked.

"We're friends, aren't we?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"I think so. Why?"

"I just wanted you to know that you can come to me if you ever need anything, and I hope you'll do the same for me."

"Of course I will! Thanks for trusting me, Tully," Nioca said.

Emperor Tullegolar smiled broadly, though it was obviously forced. Nioca didn't notice. "No, thank you." Emperor Tullegolar walked off.

Next, he approached Nemesis. "Hey, Nemesis."

"What?"

"How's your BoA work coming?"

Nemesis sighed. "Not so well."

"Well, keep at it. Just a little bit more practice with scripting and I'm sure you'll be one of the best designers ever."

"Wow! Really?"

"Of course."

"Gee, thanks." Nemesis chased Niemand down. "Hey, Niemand. Will you teach me to script better?"

"Certainly. Are you ready to go the Blades of Avernum Forum?" Niemand asked.

"Sure," Nemesis said.

Emperor Tullegolar smiled; a genuine smile this time. Having a priest and a powerful scripter on his side would one day be very useful.

Garrison sat quietly, watching Emperor Tullegolar. Garrison was sure Emperor Tullegolar was up to something, and whatever it was, it couldn't be anything good.

Randomizer, Dintiradan, Wanderer, the Lurker, and Archmagus Micael entered.

"Oh, good. You got them!" Riibu said.

"Where's Drakey?" Arancaytar asked.

"There are rats in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Drakefyre and Delicious Vlish went to investigate," Randomizer said.

Niemand paused with his hand on the door handle. "Blades of Avernum? Rats? I guess we'll just stick with theory for now, Nemesis."

Arancaytar jumped up. "How many rats? Alorael is out there, and Ephesos, and Synergy, and..." Arancaytar called up the statistics. "Darn it. The Endeavor Bot broke again. I hate this cold weather."

Zeviz smiled. "It looks like Big Brother is losing his touch."

"Can't you just do it in your head?" Riibu asked.

"No. Not when the entire system is down. Besides, it gives me a headache," Arancaytar said, "What we need is someway to see what is happening anywhere on the boards."

"A scrying pool, perhaps?" Zeviz suggested.

"Would a scrying pool also allow us to determine where all this snow is coming from?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"Possibly," Zeviz said.

"Do you know how to make one?" Arancaytar asked.

"Well, no," said Zeviz.

"Could it really be that difficult to figure out?" Emperor Tullegolar asked, "You're a mage. Just stare at a glass of water long enough and poof! a scrying pool!"

"It's not nearly that simple," Zeviz said.

Khoth stepped forward. Riibu gasped and hid behind Emperor Tullegolar and Zeviz so he wouldn't see her. "I think I remember seeing a book on scrying somewhere in the library of the Moderator Board," Khoth said, "It wasn't that long ago, so it should still be there," Khoth said.

"Okay. I'll go look for it." Arancaytar stood up and hurried off.

"Drakefyre wanted the three prisoners to be guarded separately. Who will volunteer to watch over Dintiradan?" Randomizer asked.

"Ooh! I'll guard him!" Andraste said, "And I'm not afraid to club him over the head if he tries anything!"

"Okay. Who wants to guard Wanderer?"

"I'll do it," MagmaDragoon said.

"And who will watch the Lurker?"

"I will," said Emperor Tullegolar, surprising everyone. He looked around. "What? I can be helpful occasionally."

---

In the Tech Support Forum, Nikki screwed the last piece back into the mechanical pencil and tucked it into his pocket. The door to the General Forum began to open. Nikki threw himself behind the cabinet again and watched closely as Arancaytar entered. Arancaytar walked through the forum and entered the Announcements Forum. Nikki headed for General. Now would be the best time to take out Riibu while Arancaytar was away. But he could also follow Arancaytar and reason with him. Perhaps he could convince Arancaytar of his love, and killing Riibu wouldn't be necessary it all. Nikki abruptly turned and followed the path Arancaytar had taken.

---

In the Announcements Forum, Arancaytar stood at the door to the Moderator Board. He pulled out the key and unlocked the door. He didn't realize that Nikki was slowly creeping towards him. Arancaytar opened the door and stepped inside. Nikki caught the door just before it swung shut and slipped inside.

The Moderator Board looked newer than the rest of Spiderweb, because it had been rebuilt after being completely destroyed in the Noob War several months ago. There was a snazzy Administrator Panel in one corner, a small section dedicated to having fun with HTML, a half-completed patchwork quilt and sewing supplies, some luxurious couches, and a small library composed of a mix of books that the moderators had donated and a few powerful books that the administrators didn't want ordinary members to read. Arancaytar browsed through the books carefully. A book on nuclear physics, a spare copy of the Avernum 4 walkthrough, a book on Latin, a sniper rifle catalog, a book on world domination, a book on coding, another walkthrough, a photo albumn of kittens, another sniper rifle catalog, another book on world domination... Finally, Arancaytar found the book on scrying pools. He pulled it off the shelf, turned to leave, and found himself face-to-face with Nikki.

"Nikki! You're not supposed to be in here!"

"I know. But I needed to talk to you."

Arancaytar set the book on a table. "About what?"

"About you... and Riibu."

Arancaytar felt uneasy. He moved so that the table was between him and Nikki. "What about me and Riibu?"

"The two of you are always close together. And that's not right. She doesn't love you the way I do." Nikki began edging around the table towards Arancaytar.

"Nikki, you're creeping me out. I told you before that I don't like you, and I never will." Arancaytar moved away so that he stood by the side of the table closest to the door.

Nikki fingered something in his pocket. There was a strange look in his eyes. "Never?"

"No!" Arancaytar panicked and bolted for the door. Nikki pulled out the mechanical pencil and threw it at Arancaytar. It struck a glancing blow to his shoulder.

Arancaytar stopped and held his shoulder. "What was that for?! You... I... I feel dizzy." Arancaytar began to tremble and his skin took on a nasty greenish-gray tinge. Nikki caught him as he fainted and set him gently on the floor.

"I wish you hadn't made me to that," Nikki said, "Now you'll hate me even more. Just stay alive while I get a curing po... no. You'll just go back to Riibu. Then we'll never be together. But perhaps we shall be together in death. Yes, that will work. That is the way it is meant to be." Nikki picked up the mechanical pencil and put it back in his pocket. He dragged Arancaytar behind the Administrator Panel and knelt beside him. "Once you go, I will follow. The Miscellaneous Forum may be cold and dark, but our love shall be our warmth and light! And when they finally find us and revive us, you'll understand. You'll want to be with me." Nikki adjusted Arancaytar's scarf so it wasn't falling off. "It's just... so hard... watching you... like this... It breaks my heart. It really does." Nikki began sobbing quietly.

Chapter 13: Lucky Escape

Chapter 13: Lucky Escape Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 00:14
"Help!" Zephyr Tempest cried as the wererat clawed him. Still hasted, Dikiyoba stabbed the wererat and then dodged its fangs and claws. Rakshasi and Zorro dealt with another blue rat. Zephyr Tempest stood up, only to be knocked back down by curse rays from the green rats.

Dikiyoba realized that the haste potion was wearing off as the wererat's claws just missed Dikiyoba's head. "Uh-oh."

Synergy also realized that he was in trouble. He was starting to get tired, while Smoo still seemed to have lots of energy. If he didn't finish Smoo off quickly, he would make a fatal mistake. So he tried a different tack.

"Have you ever thought about the meaning of life?" he asked, "See, I think the meaning of life can be found within Spiderweb itself if one is only willing to look hard enough."

Smoo hesitated. "Er, what?"

That was all Synergy needed. He ran Smoo through. Smoo collapsed and slowly transformed back into a wererat. Synergy looked disappointed.

"Pity. I was actually looking forward to a good debate." He turned to help the others, but the wererat got back up and bit Synergy's arm.

"Ow!" Synergy dropped his sword. The wererat's tail flicked it away. "Someone help!" Synergy said.

Suddenly, the wererat crumpled from a kill spell fired by Drakefyre. Drakefyre and Delicious Vlish had made it to the clearing just in time.

"Thanks, Drakey," Synergy pulled his arm free.

But Drakefyre and Delicious Vlish merely pushed passed him towards the remaining rats.

Dikiyoba stumbled over another one of the red rats. Before the wererat could attack, it was hit by a submission bolt from Delicious Vlish and a kill spell from Drakefyre. It died.

Delicious Vlish took out the last blue rat with several of his improved feisty slaps of pain. "Yes! Yes! It's glorious!"

Drakefyre cast arcane blow on the remaining green rats before they could hit him with any curse rays. The remaining rats, mostly red ones, fled.

Dikiyoba handed Zephyr Tempest and Synergy healing potions. Rakshasi checked Alorael. "He's alive, just unconscious. He'll be all right."

"It's the same with Student of Trinity," Zorro said.

Student of Trinity groaned and sat up. "What happened? Drakefyre! Delicious Vlish! Where did you come from?"

"We'll explain later," Delicious Vlish said.

Alorael also regained consciousness. The first thing he did was check his sniper rifle to make sure it wasn't damaged. "My rifle! Is it damaged? Oh, thank goodness. It's not."

Zephyr Tempest looked at Ephesos's body. "What element did he have again? Wasn't it copper?"

"There's no time for that here. It takes time to revive someone, and too easy to get trapped here by more rats. Pick him up. We'll take him with us and revive him later," Drakefyre said.

"Back to the General Forum?" Rakshasi asked.

"If we hurry, we should be able to make it before the surviving rats can do anything to stop us," Drakefyre said.

Suddenly, Ephesos surprised everyone by stirring. He gasped out a powerful healing spell. When he had mostly healed up, he managed to stand up.

Rakshasi stared. "Ephesos! You're alive!"

Ephesos leaned against the wall to support himself. "Yes." He looked incredibly tired.

"But I was sure that you were dead!" Rakshasi said.

"So did Dikiyoba."

"You're incredibly lucky!" Zephyr Tempest said.

"Since when does being pwned by a rat count as lucky?" Ephesos asked.

"Never mind. We've got to get out of here. Dikiyoba, do you have another haste potion?"

Dikiyoba searched through Dikiyoba's inventory. "Yes, Dikiyoba does."

"Good. You scout ahead. If the way to the Geneforge Forum is clear, we'll head back. If it isn't, we'll rest in the Avernum Trilogy Forum for a while and then try to get back," Drakefyre said.

"Right." Dikiyoba drank the potion and ran off.

"What about warning the others?" Rakshasi asked.

"Don't worry, they should already know," said Delicious Vlish.

---

One of the red rats from the ambush scampered into the rat's lair. "Restorer of Rat Ways! Restorer of Rat Ways!" it squeaked.

"What is it?" Attorosi demanded.

"Some of the humans survived the ambush!"

Attorosi sighed and pointed at a white rat. "You! Take a group of rats and seal off the exit to this forum. We can't let them escape and warn the others!"

"Right, Mighty One." The white rat began rounding up other rats.

"Aren't we going to send a group out to kill them?" another white rat asked.

"Of course," Attorosi said, "But first the forum must be blocked off so they can't escape."

---

While scouting, Dikiyoba ran across two blue rats guarding a large crack in the cliffs. Dikiyoba quickly hid behind a rock and watched. A white rat poked its head out of the crack.

"Idiots! You're not supposed to guard outside where you can be seen. You're supposed to guard inside the cave!"

"Oh, sorry," one of the blue rats said.

Dikiyoba realized that this must be the entrance to the rat's lair.

"Now make way. There are a bunch of rats coming," the white rat said.

"Where are you all going?" one of the blue rats asked as countless rats scampered through the crack.

"To guard the forum entrance, where else?" the white rat said.

Dikiyoba waited until after the rats had all streamed out and scurried away and the blue rats had gone inside. Then Dikiyoba ran off to report back to the others, who were waiting at the base of the mountains.

"Well?" Drakefyre asked.

"Dikiyoba saw lots of rats."

"Then the Avernum Trilogy it is. Come on," Drakefyre led the way.

Chapter 14: Just In Time

Chapter 14: Just In Time Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 00:22
In the General Forum, Andraste stood over Dintiradan and shook her club at him. "Don't try anything, because I won't hesitate to smack you."

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind when I take over the boards and execute all those who opposed me," Dintiradan said.

Andraste just laughed.

A few minutes later, it was obvious that Andraste was more interested in watching Riibu clumsily stalk Khoth than watching Dintiradan. Dintiradan used this opportunity to test the magical shackles. They were too tight to slip off and too strong to break. Still, they had faded a little bit. They would fade away completely in time. Next, Dintiradan reached for the copy of Homeland. It was a struggle, but it was doable. If he was careful, he could get up, smash Andraste over the head with Homeland, and escape before anyone could stop him. The problem was that there was nowhere for him to go. He couldn't leave the message boards because of the snow--but he didn't really want to do that anyway. And he couldn't escape to the game forums because of all the rats. Besides, when he escaped, he wanted to take Wanderer and the Lurker with him. They were stupid and annoying but they were loyal and all that was left of his once mighty army. So he would just bide his time. An opportunity would arise sooner or later and he would be on it the moment it did.

Emperor Tullegolar pushed the Lurker into a corner. "Stay here. I've got to ask Randomizer a question." He approached Randomizer and asked, "So what did Dintiradan do that requires them to be guarded separately?"

"Drakefyre will explain when he gets back. Now quit messing around and guard the Lurker like you're supposed to," Randomizer said.

"Of course." Emperor Tullegolar resumed his watch over the Lurker. After a moment, he asked, "So what did you do to make Drakefyre consider a ban?"

"W... what? Drakey's considering banning us? But... but..." The Lurker was stunned. "For how long?"

"Oh, a few weeks."

"A few weeks!"

"Don't worry, I like having you three around. I'll put in a good word or two to see if I can get it reduced to a week or less. I might be able to prevent it entirely but I have to know exactly what you did in order to present a good case," Emperor Tullegolar said.

Unnerved by the threat of a ban, the Lurker told Emperor Tullegolar about the summoning machine, the death of Zephyr Tempest, the plan to summon snakes from Homeland, and how Smoo had accidentally summoned the rats.

Emperor Tullegolar listened intently, only interrupting to ask questions on how the summoning machine worked. When the Lurker was finished, he said, "Hmm. Very interesting. But why uncontrollable snakes from Homeland? Why not summon an army of serviles, which can be controlled and dominated?"

"Because Dintiradan thought Homeland was more evil. And because I like Homeland," the Lurker said.

"You like Homeland? What kind of sick, twisted person are you? Never mind, don't answer that. Listen, I have to go check on something real fast. I trust you won't try to escape while I'm gone." Emperor Tullegolar said.

"I won't. Just be back in time to talk to Drakey, okay?" the Lurker said.

"Hey, Nioca," Emperor Tullegolar said, "Are you up for a quick scouting mission?"

"Why?" Nioca asked.

"I want to see the rats in the Blades of Avernum Forum for myself."

"How exciting! When do we go?"

"Right now."

"But aren't you supposed to be guarding the Lurker?"

"I've talked to him. He won't try anything."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm an Emperor. I'm never wrong."

"Well, okay. Let's go," Nioca said.

Emperor Tullegolar and Nioca exited. Up to this point, Garrison had closely followed Emperor Tullegolar around and listened to all of his conversations. Now he gave Emperor Tullegolar and Nioca a few moments to get ahead and then followed them.

Zeviz called Randomizer and Archmagus over. "Randomizer, Archmagus Micael, could I ask some questions?"

"What is it?" Randomizer asked.

"Do either one of you know anything about scrying?" Zeviz asked.

"No, not really," Randomizer said.

"Only that a good scrying device is probably really complex and requires a huge power source," Archmagus Micael said.

"I don't think that's true," Randomizer said.

"But you just said you don't know anything about scrying!" Archmagus Micael said.

"I guess we will find out when Arancaytar returns with the book on scrying. Will you help me build a scrying pool?" Zeviz said.

"Of course," said Randomizer.

"Sure," Archmagus Micael said, "So when does Arancaytar get back?"

"I don't know. He's been gone for a while," Zeviz said, "I wonder what's taking him so long."

---

Emperor Tullegolar grabbed a copy of Geneforge and tucked it into his robes as he and Nioca passed through the Tech Support Forum. As they passed through the Announcements Forum, Nioca noticed that the door to the Moderator Forum was ajar.

"Wait, Tullegolar. The door's open. And do you hear... sobbing? I know we aren't supposed to, but maybe we should go inside."

"Let's check it out, shall we?" Emperor Tullegolar pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Nikki was still crying over the comatose Arancaytar. He looked up when he heard Emperor Tullegolar and Nioca enter.

"Nikki!" Nioca said.

Nikki glared at them. "Nioca! What are you doing here? You're ruining my plan!"

"Nikki, Arancaytar is hurt. I'm a priest. I can heal..."

Nikki told Nioca to do something that definitely broke the CoC. Emperor Tullegolar almost laughed at the shocked expression on Nioca's face but stopped himself in time.

"Have you gone mad?" Nioca asked.

"No. I'm just hopelessly in love." Nikki suddenly drew his poisoned pencil and hurled himself at Nioca. "And you're messing up my one chance to be with Aran!"

Nioca didn't quite get out of the way in time. "You are crazy! Unshackle mi... ow!" Nioca looked down at the gash that the pencil had left in his arm. Nioca ran around to the other side of the table and cast a quick curing spell on himself.

Emperor Tullegolar held his slith spear ready to defend himself but stayed well out of the way and watched the fight with interest. "I wish I had some popcorn right now."

Nikki vaulted over the table and tried to stab Nioca again. "I'm going to kill you and then you'll go to Homeland like the noob you are!"

Nioca ducked under the table and crawled to the other side. "I'm not a noob. You might be, though."

There was a pause as Nikki and Nioca glared at each other. Nikki suddenly hurled the pencil at Nioca.

"Shielding!" Nioca said. The air shimmered around him and the pencil bounced off harmlessly. He picked it up. "Now what are you going to do?"

Nikki bowed his head in defeat. "All right. I give up."

Meanwhile, Garrison had taken one look at the scene when he arrived and sprinted back to the Tech Support Forum for potions. While the fight had been going on, he sneaked over to Arancaytar. Arancaytar's breathing was very faint and his skin definitely had a green tinge. Garrison uncorked a curing potion and carefully poured it down Arancaytar's throat. Almost immediately, Arancaytar's breathing returned to normal and his skin took on a healthier tone. Garrison wasn't taking any chances, though, and he gave Arancaytar another curing potion and a healing one.

Emperor Tullegolar was disappointed when Nikki surrendered and stood silently when Nioca approached him. So he was delighted when Nikki suddenly punched Nioca in the face and snatched the pencil out of his hand.

"Wha...? Oh no!" Nioca barely avoided Nikki's attack. "Smi..." Nioca left the spell unfinished to evade the pencil yet again. "Tullegolar! Help me!"

Emperor Tullegolar stepped forward and tripped Nikki with the handle of his slith spear. "Come and take me on, weakling!"

Nikki got back up and attempted to stab Emperor Tullegolar. Nioca watched in awe as Emperor Tullegolar easily parried all of Nikki's attacks. Then, with a sudden flick of the spear, he disarmed Nikki and sent the pencil flying across the room. He quickly turned the spear around and knocked Nikki unconscious with the handle.

"That was amazing!" Nioca said.

"No more amazing than an Emperor's fighting skills should be," Emperor Tullegolar said.

Arancaytar groaned.

"Oh no! Aran! I completely forgot!" Nioca rushed over, only to be met by Garrison.

"I gave him some potions, so he should be fine. It looks like he's waking up," Garrison said.

"Where did you come from?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"I was just passing by when I heard the noise," Garrison said.

"I see." Emperor Tullegolar stared at Garrison for a moment, trying to decide whether this was a coincidence or whether Garrison was following them. He had seen Garrison nearby before.

Arancaytar sat up. "What happened? Where's Nikki?"

Emperor Tullegolar secretly tucked the pencil into his robes. "He's unconscious, and will probably be so for some time."

Arancaytar stood up. "I knew he liked me, but I didn't realize he was that... unstable."

"You mean he explodes when he dies? It's a good thing you only knocked him unconscious, Tullegolar," Nioca said.

"Not that kind of unstable. I meant that he's seriously disturbed." Arancaytar grabbed the book on scrying and limped out of the forum. Garrison and Nioca picked up the unconscious Nikki and followed. Emperor Tullegolar couldn't take the time now to look around without arousing suspicion, so he unlocked the door as he left so that he could come back later.

Chapter 15: Resting

Chapter 15: Resting Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 00:28
Drakefyre found a patch of bare ground in the Avernum Trilogy Forum. "This will do for a camp tonight. The rats won't be able to sneak up on us here. I want two people as lookouts at all times. Delicious Vlish and Rakshasi will take the first watch, Student of Trinity and Dikiyoba will take the second watch, and Zorro and I will take the third."

"Right, Drakey," Rakshasi said.

Delicious Vlish and Rakshasi patrolled the edges of camp. Ephesos lay down and promptly fell asleep, using the remains of his green cloak as a pillow. Student of Trinity looked for sharp rocks to replace the ones he had slung at the rats. Alorael cleaned his sniper rifle. Zorro played another game of Galactic Core. Dikiyoba sorted through what was left of the potions. Synergy sat thinking.

Zephyr Tempest looked around. "There's nothing to eat and I'm hungry. How can we rest without food?"

Drakefyre cast manna, and several plates of mashed potatoes appeared.

"We're in the Avernum Trilogy Forum, and that's an Exile spell," Synergy said.

"I'll cast whatever spells I need to wherever necessary," Drakefyre said.

Synergy grabbed a plate. "I wasn't complaining."

While everyone except for Rakshasi, Delicious Vlish, and Ephesos ate, Drakefyre questioned Zephyr Tempest about the summoning machine. Synergy set his plate down and looked at Ephesos suspiciously.

"How do we know that's the real Ephesos?" he finally asked, "That wasn't the real Smoo we met earlier. So maybe this isn't the real Ephesos."

"The crickets don't look bothered. That's a good sign," Student of Trinity said, pointing to the crickets hopping placidly around the camp.

"I know, but I still have a simple test I want to perform," Synergy said, "Hey, Ephesos. Undead."

Still asleep, Ephesos muttered, "I hate undead. I really, really, really, really hate undead. With a passion."

"It's definitely the real Ephesos," Synergy said, "Now all I have to do is figure out why he's still alive after the clawing that enormous rat gave him."

Student of Trinity lay down. "Good. Do it quietly. I want to sleep."

"Oh, right. Sorry," Synergy said.

Everyone except for Delicious Vlish and Rakshasi settled down for the night. Zephyr Tempest rolled around a lot, trying to get comfortable. "It's so hot in here. And the glowing fungi on the ceiling is too bright."

"The light is easy enough to deal with." Student of Trinity clapped his hands twice and the fungi on the ceiling went dark.

"Hey! Now I can't see anything!" Rakshasi clapped his hands twice and the fungi resumed a faint glow, though not as bright as before.

A short time later, the camp was completely silent except for an occasional chirp from one of the crickets. A giant rat dragging a huge pack slowly approached the camp. He evaded the detection of Delicious Vlish and Rakshasi and began investigating the sleeping Spiderwebber's stuff. First, he looked over Alorael's sniper rifle and skribbane potions, but saw nothing of interest. Next, he dumped out Student of Trinity's pouch of rocks and sorted through them. He took a couple of the more interesting looking ones and added them to his pack. Then he looked through Zorro's possessions. He found Galactic Core but was repulsed by its mediocrity. Synergy rolled over and muttered something about metaphysics. Startled, the rat backed away. He approached Ephesos next.

He noticed Ephesos's boots. "Why, they're green. And magical. I must have them!" The rat removed Ephesos's boots and carefully stowed them into his pack. Then he began looking through Dikiyoba's potions. He held one up that glowed slightly. "Looks somewhat valuable. And sort of pretty. Into the pack it goes. Oh, shoot." The rat dropped the potion, and it bounced off of Dikiyoba.

Dikiyoba woke up. "Hey!"

Rakshasi and Delicious Vlish turned to look, and everyone else woke up.

"What happened?" Delicious Vlish asked.

"Where are my boots?" Ephesos asked.

"And who messed with my pouch of stones?" Student of Trinity asked.

"Sorry! I can't help it! Don't hurt me! I'll give them back!" the rat said.

"You're a spy for the rats!" Delicious Vlish said.

"No, I'm not. I've been lurking down here for a while. I don't even know anything about the other rats. Honestly! I thought I was the only one," the rat said.

"He does seem a little different from the rest," Synergy said.

"Of course I am! I'm the Mystic, pack rat extraordinaire! I scavenge things," the rat said.

"Like my boots." Ephesos grabbed the pack and dumped it out. Things scattered everywhere. Ephesos sorted through them until he found his boots.

"Hey, Ephesos, I've never noticed your boots before. They're... clover boots?" Zephyr Tempest looked surprised.

"Well, they're green..." Ephesos began.

"But clover boots provide a luck bonus! That explains why you were lucky enough to escape being killed by that enormous rat then," Zephyr Tempest said.

"Maybe," Ephesos said, "Rakshasi! RETRIBUTION!!!"

While Delicious Vlish and Rakshasi were distracted by the Mystic, the group of rats to attack the Spiderwebbers entered the forum. A white rat was in the lead. It blasted Rakshasi with a firebolt just before Ephesos's spell got it. Rakshasi was hit full force.

When the smoke cleared, Rakshasi was standing unharmed. He laughed. "Magical attacks can't harm me."

Ephesos quickly scooped his crickets back into his pocket. The Mystic began hurriedly cramming all of his stuff back into the pack. The first red rats reached the group. Although they did no real harm, only knocking someone down now and then, they were nearly impossible to hit. Another wave of rats entered the forum.

"I didn't think there would be so many, or that they would be here so soon. This summoning machine must be more powerful than I thought," Drakefyre said.

"So what do we do?" Student of Trinity asked.

"Snipe!" Alorael, who was perched on a large boulder, said. He giggled madly as he took out two giant rats with one shot. "It's not quite as fun as sniping pedestrians, but it's close enough."

"If we're careful, we should be able to survive," Drakefyre said. He looked worried, though.

"These things are far too powerful to come from a beginner scenario. They must have been made stronger somehow." Student of Trinity slung a rock at a green rat.

Zephyr Tempest cast ice lances on several blue rats. "That's probably my fault. Dintiradan wanted me to make the summoning machine as powerful as possible, so I did. Of course, I didn't know what he intended to use it for at the time."

The Mystic continued to stuff things back into his pack. One of them, a small green crystal that glowed faintly, caught Dikiyoba's eye.

"Can Dikiyoba see that?"

"I suppose. I'm not really sure why, but..." The Mystic handed the crystal over.

Dikiyoba examined it. "Drakefyre! Dikiyoba found a recall crystal."

The Mystic looked outraged. "You mean I found a recall crystal. It was a tough one to find, too. I had to..."

Drakefyre took the recall crystal. "Never mind. As long as it'll get us out of here, it doesn't matter. Everyone gather around. You too, Alorael."

"But I have a lot of sniping to catch up on!" Alorael sniped a blue rat. A curse ray from a green rat knocked him off the boulder. Zorro hauled him over to where everyone else stood. Drakefyre activated the recall crystal. Drakefyre and the others, including the Mystic and his pack, vanished in a flash of light.

---

In Shadow Vale, many people had decided to sleep. The rest kept themselves occupied. Terror's Martyr and Alec were debating the best insults for people. Lenar and the Silent Assassin discussed (in their own fashion) deranged subterfuge. Jumpin' Salmon was stumped by a particularly tricky question. "Most Internet quizzes are created by someone who is a) drunk b) between the ages of 10-15 c) illiterate or d) clinically retarded. Now how am I supposed to answer that? It should be e) all of the above."

A can of spam suddenly struck Jumpin' Salmon on the head. "Ow! Who did that?" Jumpin' Salmon glared at everyone awake. He settled on the Silent Assassin. "You look guilty! Admit it, you threw that spam at me!"

The Silent Assassin shook his head. "The Silent Assassin says that it wasn't him. He says that the person who did it is... Stareye?" Lenar sounded doubtful. "You really think it was Stareye?"

Jumpin' Salmon scoffed openly. "Stareye? Stareye?! You expect me to believe that Stareye threw that... ow!" Another can of spam hit Jumpin' Salmon in the back of the head.

Jumpin' Salmon whirled around. "All right, who did that? TM, was it you?"

"Do you ******* think I'm some sort of ******* *******? *******."

"Alec?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"Go away, you demented spawn of spam."

A third can of spam hit Jumpin' Salmon in the head.

"Ow! Whoever's doing that needs to cut it out!" Jumpin' Salmon said.

The Silent Assassin continued to point at Stareye.

"No, it can't be. It's Stareye. An administrator. Stareye wouldn't just..."

Stareye picked up a fourth can of spam and threw it at Jumpin' Salmon. It bounced off his jaw, but Jumpin' Salmon seemed more stunned by the fact that he had seen Stareye do it.

"You... you just... you..." Jumpin' Salmon sputtered.

Stareye shrugged. "If you can spam, so can I."

"Fine. If that's the way you want to play, so be it." Jumpin' Salmon picked up two cans and hurled them at Stareye. Stareye picked up another can and hurled it back.

The Silent Assassin looked at Lenar hopefully.

"No. We are not going to get involved," Lenar said. A moment later, a stray can of spam hit him.

The Silent Assassin looked at Lenar meaningfully.

"Okay. Go get them," Lenar said.

The Silent Assassin picked up several cans of spam and disappeared into the shadows. As Jumpin' Salmon prepared to throw another can of spam at Stareye, he was hit from behind by the Silent Assassin.

"Not fair!" Jumpin' Salmon ran off, dodging the spam thrown at him. He ran through the people asleep by the fire, waking many up. Those who weren't woken up immediately came awake as a volley of spam from Stareye and the Silent Assassin landed among them.

"What's going on?" Ash Lael asked.

"Ow!" Lazarus said, "What was that for?"

Jumpin' Salmon grabbed Lenar and used him as a shield. Stareye continued throwing spam at Jumpin' Salmon, but the Silent Assassin stopped.

Lenar watched the Silent Assassin's motions carefully. "Salmon, he says he'll polka if you don't let him go."

Jumpin' Salmon ducked a can of spam. "So?"

"You haven't seen him polka, have you? It's not a pretty sight."

Jumpin' Salmon continued to hold Lenar in front of him. The Silent Assassin glared at him.

"I said don't make him polka!" Lenar sounded panicked.

"Okay, fine." Jumpin' Salmon pushed Lenar away from him.

The Silent Assassin threw a can of spam at Jumpin' Salmon. It hit him in the forehead. Jumpin' Salmon staggered backwards and then collapsed.

Lenar knelt beside him and felt for a pulse. He couldn't find one. "He's dead."

"Looks like Salmon needs a respawn point." Thuryl smiled.

Chapter 16: The Snow Stops

Chapter 16: The Snow Stops Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 01:08
Meanwhile, back in General, Dintiradan looked over and saw that the Lurker wasn't guarded.

"Lurker. Help me." Dintiradan mouthed the words carefully.

Lurker shook his head and mouthed the words, "I don't want to be banned."

Dintiradan watched Andraste. She still wasn't paying much attention. He quietly stood up and walked over. "What do you mean by that?" he whispered.

The Lurker shook his head again. "I don't want to get in trouble," he whispered.

"We won't get in too much trouble. And we certainly won't be banned. It's still snowing. Banning us from the board now would be a death sentence."

Andraste suddenly realized the Dintiradan was not where he should be. "Hey!"

"Come on, Lurker!" Dintiradan dashed upstairs.

"No! Not me! I didn't do anything!" The Lurker didn't move.

"Wait for me!" Wanderer attempted to get up, but stopped when MagmaDragoon drew his sword.

"Get back here!" Andraste followed Dintiradan upstairs, waving her club wildly.

Randomizer groaned when he saw that the Lurker wasn't guarded. "Where's Emperor Tullegolar? I guess I'll have to do it until he comes back."

Dintiradan made it to the room that Alorael liked to snipe from and slammed the door shut. He leaned against it as Andraste began beating on the door with her club. "Open the door and come down right now, you hear me?"

Dintiradan fumbled to lock the door with his hands shackled together. Finally, he managed it and slumped into a chair while watching the door shudder under Andraste's blows. "Give it up! I'm safe in here!" Dintiradan said.

The blows stopped. "Well, you have to come out of there eventually. I'll be waiting right here when you do." Andraste sat down on the top step and waited.

---

Downstairs, Arancaytar, Nioca, Garrison, and Emperor Tullegolar arrived. Garrison set Nikki, still unconscious, down.

"Here's the book," Arancaytar tossed the book Zeviz.

"What happened to Nikki?" Jewels asked.

"He's completely lost his mind. He tried to kill me," Arancaytar said.

"It looks like Nikki will need guarding, too. Who will volunteer?" Randomizer asked.

"I'll do it," Jewels said.

"Good. Thank you. And you, Emperor Tullegolar, why weren't you guarding the Lurker like you were supposed to?" Randomizer said.

"Because I talked to him. He said he wouldn't escape, and I believe him," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Well, he didn't try to escape when Dintiradan did," Jewels said.

"Still, Tullegolar shouldn't have left the Lurker unguarded," Randomizer said.

"I'll go guard him again, if that would make you happy," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"It would," Randomizer said. He waited until Emperor Tullegolar stood beside the Lurker, and then rejoined Zeviz and Archmagus Micael. They were flipping through the book, trying to find the design that would work the best.

"What about this one?" Archmagus asked.

Zeviz looked at it. "Too complicated. I don't think we could do it."

"Or this one?"

"I don't like the looks of it," Randomizer said.

There was a flash of light and Drakefyre and the others from the Avernum Trilogy Forum appeared.

"Well, where are we?" Ephesos asked.

Synergy looked around. "Back in the General Forum."

"Hey, Zephyr. You're alive! Come help me convince Zeviz and Randomizer that I've identified the best design for a scrying pool," Archmagus Micael said.

"We're building a scrying pool? Neat! I'll help," Zephyr Tempest said.

"There's a rat with you!" Fatman said.

"I'm the Mystic."

"He's with us. I think," Ephesos said.

"A friendly rat. That's interesting," Nioca said.

"Just watch your stuff. He's a packrat," Student of Trinity said.

"It seems that the rat infestation is more serious than I originally thought. I'm calling a meeting right now," Drakefyre said, "All moderators must attend." Drakefyre looked around. "Stareye and Kelandon are still away, unfortunately, but everyone else is here. Wait a minute. Where's Saunders?"

The trapdoor to the fluffy turtle pit opened up and Saunders climbed out, holding a baby fluffy turtle so emaciated it looked as though it might slide out of its shell at any moment. "These poor turtles. They've gone without much food for two months and without any for the past week. They're so hungry I could hardly keep them from eating my account again. If they don't get sanity soon, they'll starve to death. What will we do?" Saunders slammed the trapdoor shut as a starving fluffy turtle lunged at her.

"We'll discuss that in the meeting," Drakefyre said, "Come on."

Jadewolf followed behind the moderators until Delicious Vlish stopped him. "What do you think you're doing? You're not a mod."

"I am too. I'm Imban. Everyone knows that," Jadewolf said.

"This is not the time for jokes," Delicious Vlish said.

"But... okay, fine." Jadewolf returned to the General Forum.

Emperor Tullegolar fumed silently while he guarded the Lurker. Now that the mods were in the Moderator Board, they would notice that it was unlocked and lock it. He wouldn't get a chance to look around the Moderator Board after all.

Garrison approached Emperor Tullegolar. He seemed slightly nervous.

"What do you want?" Emperor Tullegolar snapped.

Garrison took a deep breath. "I think I know what you're up to," he whispered, "We've all heard you bragging about how you want to be an emperor. And I've seen you talking with Nemesis and Nioca. I think you're getting all the recent arrivals on your side so you can take over."

"What? How... how did... you're..." Emperor Tullegolar sputtered.

"I can tell by your response that I'm right. So, I want to join you," Garrison said.

Emperor Tullegolar hesitated.

"You don't really have a choice. I could tell everyone right now what you're up to, and then you'll be in trouble. Or you could accept me. Do we have a deal?"

Emperor Tullegolar stuck his hand out to shake. "I have to admit, you're smarter than you look. Don't get too ambitious, though, or I'll have to eliminate you. I don't tolerate rivals. It's a deal."

"Good." Instead of shaking Emperor Tullegolar's hand, Garrison dropped a key into it.

"Where did you get this?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"It's Arancaytar's key to the Moderator Board. I took it while I was waiting for him to regain consciousness."

Emperor Tullegolar smiled. Today was his lucky day.

After a bit of arguing, the mages finally decided on a design they all liked.

"All right. Our goal is clear, the design is determined, let's get to work," Zeviz said, "We need a bucket of water, graymold, hornet glands, and coffee grounds."

"The water and graymold will be easy, but what about the hornet glands?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"My spray acid spell should serve as a substitute," Randomizer said.

"And what about the coffee?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"I bet Arancaytar has some, and I bet I can find it." Zephyr Tempest ran off towards the kitchen.

Upstairs, Dintiradan was trying to slip free of the shackles. They had faded more, but they were still holding his hands together tightly. "From now on, I carry some sort of anti-magic device with me at all times." He paused and looked out the window. "Huh. It's not snowing anymore."

Downstairs, Ephesos suddenly stopped what he was doing. "Yay! It's stopped snowing."

"Really?" Jadewolf asked.

"Yes, I can sense it warming up. But why so suddenly and quickly?" Ephesos said.

---

About the same time, Marlenny peered out of one of the windows of Shadow Vale. "Hey, the snow has stopped."

"It has?" Lazarus opened the door. A surprisingly warm breeze hit him. "It has. In fact, it's warmer out there than it is in here. The snow is already beginning to melt."

Chapter 17: Smoo Talks

Chapter 17: Smoo Talks Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 01:14
Attorosi was in a foul mood. It paced back and forth, thinking. The attack party it had sent out to the Avernum Trilogy Forum had failed to kill the humans. Somehow, they had used magic to escape. Worse, when it went to see the results of the ambush for itself, Attorosi discovered that not one of the humans had been killed. So far, its plan to eliminate the humans was failing.

But the situation was still looking good. There were no humans remaining in the forums below the Blades of Avernum one, so they'd conquered that much already. It had scouts in the rest of the game forums, and so far initial reports indicated that they were clear. Plus, more rats were being summoned every minute.

The one thing that was frustrating Attorosi was the lack of information. It didn't want to have its rats blindly rush the humans in an attempt to kill as many as possible. Rather, it wanted to target the most dangerous humans--the leaders, the magic-users, the inexperienced adventurers who could miraculously defeat much stronger enemies--first. Once they were dead, the rest could be killed much easier. Sending in rat scouts was slow and inefficient. Attorosi wanted the human it had captured to talk.

Attorosi wrinkled its nose at a sudden stench. What was that from?

A white rat popped its head into the cavern. "The mung rats from the Avernum 4 Forum are back. They're, um, ready to report to you."

"Then send them in," Attorosi said.

"Right." The white rat disappeared. A moment later, several mung rats scurried in. Attorosi shook his head to clear it. Every single one of the mung rats smelled unbearably nasty, even to a fellow rat. They were covered in grime, filth, and some sort of green ooze.

"What did you find?" Attorosi asked.

"Oh, it's clear. I think. It's really dark in there, so it's hard to tell," one of the mung rats said.

"But you must have found something. You're covered in it," Attorosi said.

"Yeah, we found a wonderful pile of trash and other filth. There was a really big cockroach and some smaller ones in it," another mung rat said.

"And how did you respond to the cockroaches?"

"They weren't rats, so they must have been allied with the humans, plus they were preventing us from rolling in the trash heap, so we chased them down and killed them."

"You killed them all?"

"I think so. A few of the small ones might have gotten away, but we got the rest. The big one's exoskeleton made it too tough to eat, but the little ones were really tasty."

Attorosi thought for a moment.

"Blight of Humans?" one of the mung rats asked.

"Yes?"

"Some of the other mung rats wanted to go and roll in the trash heap as well. Can we show them it?"

"One of you can. The rest will come with me. Step out of the room while you decide, so I can have a moment to clear my mind."

When the mung rats were gone, Attorosi resumed pacing. The mung rats were certainly a good deal more unpleasant now, but they were also much more useful. Now they could spread disease and terror among the humans. And he had a more immediate use for them, too.

All but one of the mung rats re-entered. "We've decided," one of them said.

"Good. Follow me." Attorosi led them out of the cave and towards the spot where Smoo was kept.

---

A Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Roach named Filth Finder scurried through the lowest level of the Avernum 4 Forum with as much trash as he could carry. As he approached the nest, he called out in a high-pitched voice, "Garbage Gatherer! I'm back with..." He stopped short and dropped the trash with shock. The nest had been completely destroyed. A few nymph legs were scattered around it. "No, no, it can't be. Where are the others? Where's Garbage Gatherer?"

A live nymph edged into his view.

"Sewage Spotter! Thank goodness! What happened? Where are the others?"

"There were big furry things! They came and tore the nest apart and rolled in it! I hid. Mom and most of the others ran that way." Sewage Spotter pointed down a tunnel.

Filth Finder scooped Sewage Spotter onto his back and scurried down the passage. "Garbage Gatherer? Children? Answer me!"

Occasionally, Filth Finder passed another nymph leg. Finally, two live nymphs scurried to meet him.

"Dad! Dad! What's going on? There were these big hairy things with beady eyes and fangs and claws and scaly tails! They attacked us! I saw them get Carrion Chewer and Muck Muncher! It was... they were..."

Filth Finder sighed heavily. "I know. But you're safe now." Filth Finder set them onto his back as well and continued down the passage. He found another two nymphs, and then three more in a similar manner. Finally, Filth Finder stumbled onto Garbage Gatherer's body. A nymph pulled on one of her antennae.

"Wake up, Mom. Please, wake up," he pleaded.

Filth Finder carefully put the nymph on his back. "She's not going to wake up, Grime Grubber." Filth Finder's whole body quivered with grief. "Those beasts! They've killed my mate and most of my children. How could they? How could...? Enough of this. The Spiderwebbers have to know about this. And maybe, just maybe, they can clean up this whole mess. Hang on, children."

Filth Finder sprinted towards the Announcements Forum as fast as he could.

---

Back in the Blades of Avernum Forum, Smoo was not coming any closer to escaping. He had twisted and rubbed the ropes, trying to fray them or get a knot to come undone, but the only result was severe ropeburn. He had tried reasoning and pleading with the guards, but they ignored him. His wounded leg was really starting to bother him. He suspected it might be getting infected.

"Look, I know you aren't supposed to talk to me, but you've got to do something about my leg. It needs to be treated. If I die, Attorosi won't be happy," Smoo said. He gagged as a foul scent reached him.

"I can heal you, but only if you give me information." Attorosi appeared, backed by a wererat and several mung rats.

Smoo watched (and smelled) the mung rats apprehensively. Still, he worked up enough nerve to say, "Never!"

"Very well. As much as I'd love to see your face chewed off, I still want you to talk. So chew off whatever else you want, mung rats."

The mung rats sprang towards Smoo. There was nothing Smoo could do. He closed his eyes and waited. Just before the first one bit into him, he changed his mind. "No, wait. I'll talk!"

"Stop!" Attorosi said.

The mung rats halted instantly. Smoo opened his eyes cautiously.

"Thank you, mung rats. Please leave us," Attorosi said, "But stay within calling distance." When the mung rats were gone, Attorosi turned to Smoo. "Now, tell me, do the humans have any way to cure disease?"

Smoo hesitated.

"Don't make me call the mung rats back," Attorosi warned.

"Y... yes, there's... there's..."

"I'm waiting."

"There's a cabinet with curing potions," Smoo said reluctantly.

"And who made those potions?"

Smoo hesitated again.

"Leave anything out or lie to me, and I'll have the mung rats on you the moment I find out."

"Dikiyoba."

"I see. Is that all?"

"Ephesos and Nioca can cast curing spells."

"Anything else?"

"No."

"Good. Now, is there any way you humans can be brought back to life?"

"Any of the mages can summon elements, and Zorro can combine them with Galactic Core to revive people."

"I see. Who are the mages?" Attorosi asked.

"Randomizer. Zephyr Tempest. Zeviz. Archmagus Micael. And Drakefyre," Smoo said.

"Is that everything?"

"Yes."

"Tell me about yourself."

"What?" Smoo asked.

"You heard me. Start talking." Attorosi poked the wererat beside it. "And you, pay attention."

Chapter 18: Drakefyre's Plan

Chapter 18: Drakefyre's Plan Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 01:20
Drakefyre was about to shut and lock the door between the Avernum 4 Forum and the Announcements Forum when Filth Finder stopped him.

"Wait! Wait!" Filth Finder dashed out of the shadows of the Avernum 4 Forum and into the Announcements Forum. "There's something down there."

"The rats? We know. We're discussing what to do with them right now. You're welcome to stay up here until we take care of them," Drakefyre said.

"But my mate... Garbage Gatherer... they killed her. Is there any way to...?"

"Check with Zorro and the mages. They might be able to help," Drakefyre said.

"Okay." Filth Finder scurried off.

---

In the Tech Support Forum, Dikiyoba was making potions to replenish the ones that Dikiyoba had used up during the ambush. Randomizer entered.

"Is there any graymold I could have?"

Dikiyoba rummaged through a chest. "The supply of graymold is getting low. Dikiyoba will need to collect more once the rats are gone. Here." Dikiyoba handed Randomizer a chunk of slimy graymold.

"Thanks," Randomizer said.

Filth Finder entered.

"A GIFTR! We don't see you around too often. What do you need?" Randomizer asked.

"I'm looking for someone who can help me revive my mate Garbage Gatherer. Drakefyre said to check with Zorro and the mages."

"Well, we're busy at the moment, Zorro doesn't like to be bothered, and Garbage Gatherer doesn't have an element, so it would be tricky, but we could certainly try," Randomizer said.

"Oh, thank you," Filth Finder said.

Ephesos entered. "Dikiyoba, do you have that balm of life potion that I asked for ready yet?"

"Yes." Dikiyoba tossed it to him.

"On second thought, maybe Ephesos would be willing to do it," Randomizer said.

"Do what?" Ephesos asked. He noticed Filth Finder. "Oh. Hello."

"Could you revive Garbage Gatherer?" Filth Finder asked.

"Well, I... why can't one of the mages do it, Randomizer?" Ephesos asked.

"We're busy at the moment. Plus, there aren't that many open elements left, so it would make sense if we saved the remaining ones until we absolutely have to use them," Randomizer said.

"Very well. I'll do it. You'll have to lead me there, um... what is your name?" Ephesos said.

"Filth Finder. Thank you very much. I just need a spot to leave my children. I don't want to take them down where the rats are again."

"Just leave them in General. They should be fine." Randomizer opened the door to the General Forum and left.

Filth Finder poked his head into the General Forum and backed away quickly. "Oh no. The light is too bright and there are too many people."

In the General Forum, Nioca was the only one who noticed Filth Finder's quick entrance and exit. "What was that?" he asked.

"What was what?" Garrison asked.

"Some kind of giant bug," Nioca said.

"That was one of the GIFTR," Randomizer said.

"GIFTR?" Nioca asked.

"Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Roaches," Garrison said.

"I've never seen one up close before. I hope it doesn't mind if I get a close look at it." Nioca entered the Tech Support Forum.

Filth Finder looked over the equipment side of the Tech Support Forum. "This looks like a much nicer spot. It's dark and there are plenty of nice hiding spots. No one will disturb them here, right?"

"I can't imagine anyone would," Ephesos said.

"Dikiyoba will be here for a while, so Dikiyoba can tell anyone who comes looking for equipment that they're there."

Filth Finder set all the nymphs from his back onto the ground. "I have to go now, but I'll be back shortly. Be good and don't go too far. And remember, Crud Collector, tag does not involve beating up your brothers and sisters."

"Well, it should," Crud Collector said.

"Ready?" Ephesos asked.

"Where are you going?" Nioca asked, "Can I come along?"

Ephesos sighed. "To the Avernum 4 Forum. You can come along if you'd like, I suppose."

"I think I will," Nioca said.

"Lead the way, Filth Finder," Ephesos said.

---

In the Moderator Board, all the moderators sat at the table while Drakefyre spoke.

"So here's the situation. Geneforge 4: Rebellion will be released in just a few days. Before that happens, we must defeat the rats, get rid of the snow around the message board, and finish the Geneforge 4 Forum. The rats are the most pressing issue, so let's start there. Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer built a machine that can summon creatures from games with Zephyr Tempest's help. They killed Zephyr Tempest and hid the summoning machine in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Smoo summoned rats from his scenario Rats Aplenty. He has not been seen since. Presumably, he is dead or a prisoner of the rats," Drakefyre said.

"How do we know he isn't leading the rats?" Arancaytar asked.

"Now why would he do that?" Delicious Vlish asked.

"That is a possibility, though not a very likely one. However, it brings up a good point. Some of the rats have the ability to take on the form of humans," Drakefyre said.

"Some wererats got summoned too?" Arancaytar said.

"Apparently so. Anyway, one of them disguised itself as Smoo and led Alorael and some others into an ambush. The rats may try a similar technique again," Drakefyre said.

"What's to stop the wererats from pretending to be a different Spiderwebber? If they can disguise themselves as Smoo, they can probably disguise themselves as anyone," Imban said.

"Unfortunately, I don't know how the wererats transform themselves. It may be that they need actual contact with someone to take on their form, or it may be that they only need to see someone to disguise themselves as that person. But, yes, we need to watch out for other imposters," Drakefyre said.

There was a knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Drakefyre asked.

"Ephesos, with Filth Finder and Nioca. We're ready to go to the Avernum 4 Forum. Oh, and the snow has stopped."

Drakefyre left the Moderator Board and unlocked the door to the game boards. "Glad to hear about the snow. Do you happen to know why it stopped?"

"Not yet," Ephesos said.

"That door doesn't look strong enough to keep the rats from breaking through," Nioca said.

"It won't stop a determined attack. But it will keep them busy long enough to prepare. And hopefully we'll be ready to attack them first. Now, I'm locking the door behind you. When you're done, knock and I'll let you back. Obviously, you won't have a quick escape, so don't let the rats sneak up on you. If you see a large group of them, forget what you're doing and come back, or else you'll risk getting cut off."

Ephesos checked to make sure he still had the balm of life potion and also a sharp dagger. "Right."

Nioca looked nervous. "Understood, I guess."

When Filth Finder, Ephesos, and Nioca had left, Drakefyre locked the door again and returned to the Moderator Board. "Where was I?"

"Wererats," Arancaytar said.

"Right. Besides wererats, there are giant rats, mung rats, green rats that fire powerful curse rays, blue rats that are slow but incredibly tough..." Drakefyre said.

"I'll say. I had to shoot one twice. Twice! Nothing should be able to survive my snipage," Alorael said.

"...red rats that are fast but not all that dangerous, and white rats that can cast a few basic spells. There may also be gargantuan rats, which are presumably just extremely large, but I haven't seen any yet. Any strategy come up with to combat the rats has to take all their abilities into account."

"I say we let the fluffy turtles loose on the rats. Surely they must have even a tiny bit of sanity that the turtles so desperately need," Saunders said.

"That may drive the rats back, but it won't stop them. The only way to do that is to destroy the summoning machine," Drakefyre said.

"How do we do that?" Imban asked.

"It will be difficult. I've spoken with Zephyr Tempest about the design of it, and it is very sturdy. It can't be turned off or unplugged. There's no easily-sabotaged power source. The orders can't be canceled and the scenario cannot be removed. It's warded against magic and there is an energy shield that comes up to protect it from physical damage," Drakefyre said.

"It sounds like our resident Evil Overlord was very through," Saunders said.

"Unfortunately so," Drakefyre said.

"So how do we destroy the machine, then?" Arancaytar asked.

"I'll get to that. But first, are we all in agreement that the summoning machine should be destroyed? All in favor?" Drakefyre asked.

Everyone raised their hands.

"If it involves sniping and skribbane, I'm in," Alorael said.

"We can always rebuild it later, though not so strong, of course," Schrodinger said.

"Good. Then that's settled," Drakefyre said, "The energy shield uses energy very rapidly. If we were persistent in our attempts to destroy it, the power would give out and the shield would go down. Then the machine would be vulnerable to physical damage. Still, it could take a while. It's strongly built."

"Wouldn't the summoning stop once the power is drained?" Khoth asked.

"No. The energy shield is powered separately from the rest of the summoning machine," Drakefyre said.

"Hold on, Drakey. Are you suggesting that we somehow sneak a group of Spiderwebbers to the summoning machine--which is likely to be heavily guarded--and have them hold off the rats (including the ones that are always being summoned) long enough to drain the energy shield and destroy the machine?" Arancaytar asked.

"No," Drakefyre said.

"Good," Arancaytar said.

"We have to locate the summoning machine first before we can do anything with it. That's the first thing the mages will be looking for once the scrying pool is complete," Drakefyre said, "Once we've got the location, we can release the fluffy turtles to keep the bulk of the rats busy. Then we can send a group in to destroy the summoning machine. Does anyone else have any suggestions?"

Alorael nudged Arancaytar. "Why don't you show off your PHP skills and use the Pied Piper Project against the rats?"

"What!? How would I do that?" Arancaytar asked. "I can't even get to Ermarian with all the snow outside."

"Ephesos said the snow stopped," Imban said.

"It's still too deep for me to get there. And what happens when the snow starts to melt?" Arancaytar asked.

"Relax, Arancaytar." Drakefyre walked over to the Administrator Panel and made a few adjustments. "Spiderweb has flood protection. It'll hold. Does anyone have anything else they want to say?"

No one said anything.

"Then we can go back to General and tell everyone what we decided. I know it's not the best plan, but it appears to be the only one we have. One last thing--someone has to stay in the Announcements Forum to unlock the door for Ephesos, Nioca, and the GIFTR when they return," Drakefyre said.

"I'll do it," Alorael said.

Chapter 19: Exodus

Chapter 19: Exodus Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:23
Marlenny was forced to close the door. The temperature had risen drastically and the melting snow had formed a large puddle just outside Shadow Vale that threatened to flood inside.

Lazarus looked at the spam he was eating with distaste. Then he looked across the fire to see Slartucker eating a steak. "No way! Where did you get that?"

"From the Nine-Headed Cave Cow, of course. He and She heard my mooving pleas for succor and, in His and Her infinite wisdom and power, provided me with nourishment."

"Could you ask this Nine-Headed Cave Cow to provide me with a steak too? I'm hungry," Lazarus asked.

"That depends. Are you ready to be accepted into the Church of the Nine-Headed Cave Cow and serve Him and Her forever more? The Nine-Headed Cave Cow does not serve heretics."

"Um..." Lazarus was interrupted by Kelandon chanting quietly to himself.

"What are you singing, Kelandon?" the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"A few verses of the Khalthanad, the great slith epic," Kelandon said.

"The better question is, why is he singing?" FBM asked.

"Because he's a ********* ******* *******, of course," Terror's Martyr said.

Kelandon stood up angrily. "I've had enough of your insults."

Terror's Martyr laughed scornfully. "What are you going to..."

Kelandon punched him in the face.

Terror's Martyr staggered in shock. "You... DIE!!!"

Kelandon had covered his ears and was chanting another stanza of the Khalthanad and so didn't hear him. Furious, Terror's Martyr grabbed a vengeance blade that Tyranicus had on display and attacked Kelandon. Kelandon grabbed a shield and got in up just in time to prevent himself from being skewered. He grabbed a sword as well.

"All right!" Thuryl said.

"Kel, no! What's the matter with everyone today?" Marlenny looked to Stareye, but he seemed more interesting in building strange towers of spam than preventing the fight.

Lenar translated for the Silent Assassin. "The Silent Assassin says that everyone is slowly being driven mad from being trapped in a small, dark space. He can even feel the madness affecting himself. He thought that he was being attacked by alien entities from another dimension. And that's why Mysterious Man had to die. What!?"

The Silent Assassin shrugged as he sheathed his knife and pointed to Mysterious Man's body.

"How could you?" Lenar demanded.

The Silent Assassin shuffled uncomfortably.

Terror's Martyr parried and riposted Kelandon's attack. The blow glanced harmlessly off of Kelandon's shield.

"I can't help thinking this would be so much better with lightsabers," Slartucker said.

The fire suddenly sputtered and steamed. Lazarus leapt up. "There's water leaking in."

Slartucker looked at the water seeping across the floor. "We have to get out of here."

"No kidding," Lazarus said, "Marlenny, open the door."

"I can't. The water's higher outside than it is here," Marlenny said.

Terror's Martyr seemed to have the upper hand in the duel. He was slowly pushing Kelandon back towards a wall. Lenar and the Silent Assassin dodged out of the way as they came by. Then Terror's Martyr stumbled over Mysterious Man's body, giving Kelandon enough time to recover.

Slartucker yanked the door open. A wave of water flooded in, extinguishing the final remnants of the fire.

"Hey!" Stareye said as the water washed his towers away.

"Stop the fight, Stareye. We have to get out of here," Slartucker said.

"Yes, I... yes. All right, you two. Knock it off."

Kelandon and Terror's Martyr ignored him.

"What will we do with the people who died?" Lenar asked.

"Carry them back with us," Slartucker said.

Lenar picked up Mysterious Man's body and pointed at Jumpin' Salmon. "You killed him, you carry his body back. You're just lucky I don't make you carry Mysterious Man too."

The Silent Assassin frowned but picked the body up anyway.

"Come on, people. It would behoove us to moove. The snow is still melting and the water is still rising." Slartucker stepped outside and waded through the water. Several people followed him.

"But who will take Tyranicus back?" Lenar asked.

"Is there any point in taking him back? He'll just die again," Thuryl said. After a moment, he added, "Oh, all right." Thuryl picked Tyrancius' body up. "Let's go."

"We'll catch up," Stareye said while Terror's Martyr and Kelandon continued their duel. Water splashed everywhere as they fought. Stareye moved to separate them. "Seriously, stop."

"No way. Not this time," Kelandon said.

"Not until after I show that ********* ******* ******* a thing or two." Terror's Martyr lunged. The blade bounced off Kelandon's shield and struck Stareye instead. He collapsed. Kelandon and Terror's Martyr halted.

"Oops."

"*******."

---

Not far away from Shadow Vale, the temperature dropped again. The standing water turned into slush. Well in the lead, Slartucker slogged through it until he found solid snow to stand on. He paused so everyone else could catch up.

"I haven't seen Stareye with Kelandon and Terror's Martyr yet. Maybe we should wait for them?" Marlenny suggested.

"It's still cold out. If we wait, we'll freeze. They'll be fine." Slartucker started walking again.

---

Kelandon and Terror's Martyr glared at each other for a moment more. Then Kelandon hauled Stareye out of the water.

"This is your fault," he said.

"******* off, ****** *****."

"Enough!" Stareye said. He checked the gash in his side. Fortunately, it wasn't too deep. "The others have already left. We have to catch up with them. Yes, you too, TM. There are other forums on the way back to Spiderweb. The storm and flooding probably emptied some of them out--most likely the ones that aren't friendly."

---

Ash Lael stopped. Four figures stood and another knelt in the snow. The kneeling figure said something and a flicker of flame appeared. It vanished almost instantaneously.

"its no gud"

"yeh evry tim u start a fiar teh sno melt nad putsit out"

"Noobs," Ash Lael whispered. Everyone halted.

"Shut up! Just shut up!" The kneeling figure stood up and slapped the two noobs who had spoken.

"And a flamer," FBM said.

The flamer and noobs noticed the Spiderwebbers.

"hay who r u"

"were u from"

"Ignore them," Slartucker said.

"Oh, yes, just ignore us. You miserable little..." The flamer counted how many Spiderwebbers there were and decided not to start a fight.

Slartucker sighed in relief. "For once in their lives, they show a little bit of sense."

---

The trail the other Spiderwebbers had left was clear. Once out of the water and slush and onto the snow, Kelandon, Stareye, and Terror's Martyr moved quickly. Or at least quickly given the fact that Stareye was injured.

"We're probably close to catching up with the others now. Just a little farther," Kelandon said.

Stareye shook his head. He halted and leaned against a wall. "I need to rest for a moment."

"Okay then," Kelandon said. He and Terror's Martyr stood in uncomfortable silence.

Suddenly, a heavily-armored 1337 h3x0r dropped from above. "411 `/0|_|5 8423 453 8310|\|6 70 |_|2!"

"What? I didn't understand a word of that," Kelandon said.

A flamer and two noobs dropped from above as well. "This is our forum, idiots. You're on our territory."

Kelandon drew his sword as the 1337 h4x0r charged at him with an axe.

The flamer glared at Terror's Martyr. "What are you looking at?"

"Three ***** ****** maggots."

"y r u so mean"

"You think we're maggots? You thought wrong. You're the maggot," the flamer said.

One of the noobs watched the flamer and Terror's Martyr argue. The other turned towards Stareye. "who r u"

"Go away." Stareye said.

"tahts not nise!"

"I said go away."

"ur mean!! ill sho u!!!1" The noob lunged at Stareye.

Stareye managed to knock it to the ground and then stomped his boot hard on its face.

Meanwhile, Kelandon and the 1337 h4x0r fought. The 1337 h4x0r's axe hit Kelandon's shield harmlessly. Kelandon stabbed at it, punching a hole in its armor. He parried the next blow. The sword snapped in half.

"1\/3 607 `/0|_| |\|0\/\/!" The 1337 h4x0r swung its axe.

Kelandon blocked it with the shield. "I still can't understand anything you say." He pulled a spellchecker out of his pocket and slammed into the face of the 1337 h4x0r. The 1337 h4x0r collapsed. Behind him, the flamer exploded after taking one too many insults about its mother from Terror's Martyr.

Stareye left the noob lying in the snow. "Let's move on before anyone else shows up."

---

The rest of the group was making good progress.

"I can see the message board!" the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"Yes, we're almost..." Slartucker stopped short. Everyone stared.

The Spiderweb Software Message Boards sat in the middle of a lake.

Chapter 20: The Rats Have Problems Too

Chapter 20: The Rats Have Problems Too Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:26
In the Blades of Avernum Forum, the three giant rats that had been guarding Smoo were off-duty now. They sat and talked at the edge of a pond.

One glanced at the hill were Smoo was kept. "I'm glad we're done with that. I don't care how important the prisoner is, guarding him is unsettling."

"And the wererats are just creepy. If humans are so evil, then why is Attorosi working with rats that can become humans?" The second rat shuddered. "I don't like them at all."

"Or even the white rats. Magic is a human thing. We shouldn't be messing with it," the third rat said, "Do you smell something?"

One of the mung rats joined the three giant rats. It waded into the pond and began drinking. The three giant rats immediately began protesting.

"You stink!"

"What did you get into?"

"You're messing up the water!"

The mung rat stopped drinking long enough to glare at them and say, "Get used to it. We found some trash in the Avernum 4 Forum, and there's a bunch of us there right now."

One of the giant rats twitched its whiskers. "We'll see about that."

The three giant rats scurried away.

---

Smoo was exhausted. He closed his eyes and rested for a minute. He had to escape; he had to warn the others. He sat up again and rubbed the rope binding his wrists together against a sharp rock. Finally, the rope snapped.

Smoo checked to make sure the three new giant rat guards weren't watching him. Instead, they were talking a short distance away. Smoo untied the ropes binding his legs. Fortunately, Attorosi had kept its word and healed Smoo's leg. Smoo carefully got up and limped off.

---

Attorosi stood in its cave, speaking with a wererat, now in the form of Smoo. "Do whatever it takes to convince the humans that you are the real Smoo. Except, of course, give away the location of the summoning machine. Find out who the moderators and the people that Smoo named are. Take out any that you can and report back with descriptions of the rest."

"Yes, Scourge of Humans." The wererat left.

A moment later, the three giant rats entered. Attorosi noted their unhappy demeanor.

"Excuse me for a moment," Attorosi said. It ran from the cave and caught up with the wererat. "Don't leave yet. Instead, come meet with me again after I'm done speaking with the giant rats."

The wererat nodded.

Attorosi rejoined the three giant rats. "Now, what seems to be the problem?"

"It's the mung rats. They smell really bad," one of the giant rats said.

"Yeah. They're giving the rest of us a bad name. Most of us are actually very clean, as you well know," the second rat said.

"Anyway, one of them jumped into a pond. They're going to pollute the water if they do that," the first rat said, "Maybe they like that, but the rest of us don't."

"Hmm. I see. Well, I shall designate one pond for the mung rats and the rest for everyone else. Anything else?" Attorosi said.

"Yeah," the third rat said, "The wererats."

"What about them?" Attorosi asked.

"They can turn into humans! How can you let such half-breeds work with us?" the third rat said.

"They are not human-rat crosses. They are rats with the ability to transform into humans. They are rats and they are loyal to us. Let me assure you that they would like nothing more than to not use their abilities and live normal rat lives. But they can't. None of us can while the humans and their barbaric poison, traps, science experiments, cats..."

"Cats can't hurt us. In fact, we eat them," the second rat said.

"They may be able to hurt a fully grown rat, but they mercilessly massacre children and babies. The humans also have swords, guns, and spells that they use against us. Against such weapons, we must use whatever we have against the humans. The wererats are bold heroes risking their lives to build a better society for us all. Do you understand?"

"I... I think so," the first rat said.

More overwhelmed by Attorosi's fanaticism than convinced, the three giant rats left. The wererat waited until they were gone and then stepped inside. Attorosi was pacing again.

"They'll be questioning my use of magic next. Don't they understand the world I'm trying to create for them?" it squeaked to itself. Then Attorosi noticed the wererat. "Oh, it's you. Your old orders still stand. In addition, bring any device or method that the humans use for controlling others that you find back to me."

"Yes, Scourage of Humans." The wererat left again.

---

One of the rats who were in charge of guarding Smoo looked over and realized he was missing. "Shoot! He escaped!"

"He what?"

"Find him, find him!"

After several minutes of searching, one finally concluded, "He's gone."

"Then someone has to go tell Bane of Humans that we failed."

"Not me!"

"Not me either!"

"Or we could go hunt him down ourselves."

"That's a better idea. Let's go."

The guards scurried off.

Chapter 21: A Narrow Escape

Chapter 21: A Narrow Escape Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:29
Filth Finder led Ephesos and Nioca down to the bottom level of the Avernum 4 Forum. No one knew why, but the glowing fungi on the ceiling didn't grow well here. Ephesos and Nioca could only see a few feet ahead. Filth Finder realized this and set a slow pace accordingly.

When they arrived at Garbage Gatherer's body, Ephesos looked around. "We appear to be safe for the moment, but keep an eye out for rats. Just don't interrupt me once I start the spell." He uncorked the balm of life potion and poured it over Garbage Gatherer. The liquid began to glow as Ephesos chanted the incantation.

Just down the tunnel, almost a hundred mung rats were tearing apart the GIFTR's nest and squabbling with each other. One happened to notice the faint glow.

"What's that?" it asked.

"I don't know," another rat said, "Let's find out."

Nioca heard the two rats coming and glanced nervously at Ephesos. He was still in the middle of the spell.

"A human!" one of the rats squeaked, "Kill him!"

"Smite!" Nioca said. The passage was momentarily lit up as bolts of magical ice struck both rats.

"Ugh." Nioca winced at the smell. "What kind of rats were they?"

Ephesos finished the spell. In a blinding flash of light, Garbage Gatherer was revived.

"Wha...? Where am I? What's going on?" she asked.

"Garbage Gatherer! You're okay!" Filth Finder said.

"Yes, but I don't understand. The rats..." Garbage Gatherer said.

"They're coming!" Nioca said.

Attracted by the light and noise, the mung rats were scampering along the passage towards them, squeaking loudly. The first thing that reached them was the smell.

"That's far too many rats for us to fight. Run!" Ephesos said.

The four of them ran. Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer were out in front.

"Slow down!" Nioca said, "We can't see you!"

"Sorry! Here! Turn here!" Filth Finder said. He and Garbage Gatherer turned left, climbed some stairs back to the main level, and nearly collided with Smoo.

"What are you running from?" Smoo asked.

"Rats! Come on!" Filth Finder helped Smoo up. They approached the door to the Announcements Forum with the lead rat just inches behind Smoo. Filth Finder yelled, "Drakefyre! Open the door! Hurry!"

Alorael pulled the door open, stepped into the Avernum 4 Forum, put on a pair of night vision goggles, and fired his sniper rifle. The rat behind Smoo went down, allowing the GIFTR and Smoo to make it to the Announcements Forum safely.

"Wait! Where are Ephesos and Nioca?" Filth Finder asked.

"I thought they were right behind me, but I guess not," Garbage Gatherer said.

"How long can you hold the rats off?" Filth Finder asked Alorael.

Alorael sniped three rats in rapid succession. "As long as necessary. I've got unlimited ammo and plenty of skribbane. Besides, this is quite enjoyable." Alorael sighed. "If only I were sniping pedestrians instead of rats."

"And the smell doesn't bother you?" Garbage Gatherer asked.

"The idea is to snipe them before they get close enough to smell," Alorael said.

"I'll go find Drakefyre and tell him what I know about the rats." Smoo left.

Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer watched Alorael for a while. He seemed to be doing a good job of holding the mung rats back.

Finally, Filth Finder said, "You keep the door open until Ephesos and Nioca arrive. We're going to check on our nymphs."

---

One of the mung rats towards the back of the group that was attacking Alorael shook its head. "That human can keep sniping us forever. This just isn't working. I'm running back to tell Attorosi, and it can start the full attack." It scampered off.

---

When the GIFTR had turned left, Ephesos and Nioca had turned down a passage on the right. They were fortunate in that most of the rats stopped and argued about which way to go. Eventually, though, many of the rats decided to chase after them.

Nioca ran up against solid wall. "The tunnel ends, and there weren't any other side passages. We're trapped."

Ephesos began feeling the walls. "No, it can't be. There must be another passage here somewhere."

Nioca looked up. "There's a hole in the ceiling. Maybe we could climb up it somehow. Hey!" Someone fell through the hole and onto Nioca, knocking him to the ground.

The figure helped him up. "Sorry."

"Smoo?" Nioca asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I escaped the rats. I didn't see that hole, though," Smoo said.

"I'm afraid you didn't really escape the rats. They're after us," Nioca said.

"Aha! Quick, in here." Ephesos ducked into the small cave he had found.

"This isn't much of a hiding place," Nioca said.

"Shh!" Ephesos whispered, "They might pass us by. Wait... I think I know where we are. Start looking for a secret door against the back wall."

Nioca and Smoo looked closely at the walls while Ephesos positioned himself to cast retribution on the first rats to discover the cave.

"I found it." Nioca dropped to his hands and knees and crawled through a small crack. It was a slow and sticky process, as it was blocked by old, dusty webbing. Smoo and Ephesos crawled after him. It opened up into a large cave filled with decaying spiderwebs and rubble.

"What is this place?" Nioca pulled strands of web off of his arm.

"It's the old GIFTS lair. There should be a tunnel up to General somewhere. Start looking for it," Ephesos said.

"But then the rats will have a path straight to General as well! Unless you have a plan to stop them?" Nioca said.

Ephesos looked carefully at the ceiling. "I do have a plan. Where are they, Smoo?"

Smoo had his ear against the cave wall. He could hear the rats talking.

"Where'd they go? I know they came this way!"

"Maybe they're in this cave?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Well, what do you see?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? Then where did they go?"

"Search me!"

"Maybe they didn't come this way?"

"I know they came this way!"

"No, wait. Check for secret doors."

"I'm not finding anything."

"Me either."

"Hey, I think I found something."

"Ephesos, they've found it," Smoo said.

"Good. Now both of you, back well away." Ephesos raised his hands and closed his eyes.

The first rat poked its head through. "They're here!" it squeaked just as Ephesos yelled, "MOVE MOUNTAINS!!!"

With a deafening rumble, the wall and a huge chunk of the ceiling collapsed onto the cave, flattening the rats inside and destroying it completely. Nioca cast smite on the one rat that made it through.

"That was amazing, Ephesos," he said.

Ephesos opened his eyes and surveyed the damage. "Yes, I suppose it was. It's just not as satisfying as retribution is. Plus, if the tunnel out of here is blocked, then I've just collapsed the only other way out."

"Don't worry about that. I've found it," Smoo said.

Smoo, Ephesos, and Nioca climbed up. It was a long, steep climb. The end of the tunnel was blocked by a metal trapdoor. Beyond it, they could hear growling.

"Sounds like the fluffy turtles are hungry. No one has any sanity on them, right?" Ephesos said.

"Nope," Smoo said.

Nioca hesitated for a second. "Um... no. Of course not!"

Chapter 22: Scrying and Swimming

Chapter 22: Scrying and Swimming Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:30
Randomizer returned with the graymold about the same time Archmagus Micael returned with a bucket of water. Zeviz was studying the incantation that would activate the ingredients and cause them to form a working scrying pool. Randomizer cast spray acid on the graymold. The dissolving bits fell from his hand and landed in the bucket, where they sank to the bottom.

"So... where's Zephyr?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"I found it!" Zephyr Tempest ran from the kitchen with a can of coffee.

Randomizer read the label as Zephyr Tempest added a scoop of grounds to the bucket and stirred everything together. "Cthulhu Coffee--blacker than the pits of R'lyeh!"

"So, how strong does that make it?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"There are some things we are not meant to know. This is probably one of them. Ready to cast the spell, Zeviz?" Randomizer asked.

"Ready. Alakauhbraz!"

The moment Zeviz finished the spell, the water began to steam and emit sparks. When the steam and sparks died down, all the mages leaned in to get a better look.

"Ow!" Zephyr Tempest and Archmagus Micael banged heads.

The water was dazzlingly, hypnotically clear. The mages stared at it for a moment, but saw nothing but the bottom of the bucket.

"I'm not seeing anything," Zephyr Tempest said.

"What does the book say to do now, Zeviz?" Randomizer asked.

Zeviz picked up the book and started reading. "Scrying is not a natural skill for most people. It takes time and practice before a scryer can learn to see images in the scrying pool reliably and controllably. Most beginning scyers get the best results by focusing on a specific person or place, rather than scanning a general area."

"Can I look first?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"Go ahead," Zeviz said.

Archmagus Micael stared at the pool for a while.

"See anything?" Randomizer asked.

"I can see my reflection."

"I want to have a look now!" Zephyr Tempest pushed Archmagus Micael out of the way and stared into the water.

Drakefyre and the mods entered. Drakefyre immediately went to speak with the Lurker.

The Lurker panicked. "Please don't ban me, Drakey! I won't do anything like that again. In fact, I quit Dintiradan's Legion of Terror! Please don't ban me! Please!"

"I don't think that will be necessary. But consider this your warning. Any further trouble from you and you will receive a temporary ban." Drakefyre waved his hand and the shackles disappeared from the Lurker's wrists. "You're free to go."

Now that Emperor Tullegolar didn't have to guard the Lurker, he joined Garrison.

"What are your plans, Tullegolar?" Garrison asked.

"Nothing for now. I see that Nemesis is still with Niemand, but where's Nioca?"

"I think he went with Ephesos to the Avernum 4 Forum," Garrison said.

"What? He could get himself killed. Maybe Ephesos will get killed, though."

There was shouting from the fluffy turtle pit. Saunders kicked open the pit. Ephesos and Smoo crawled out.

"So much for that wish," Emperor Tullegolar muttered.

"Get them off of me!" Nioca yelled from the pit as he disappeared under a pile of ravenous fluffy turtles.

"When we told you to leave your sanity at the door, we meant all of your sanity. Get rid of it quick, or the turtles will tear you apart!" Saunders said.

Nioca managed to grab his last shred of sanity and hurl it away from himself. All the fluffy turtles charged after it. He got up and climbed out of the pit. Saunders slammed the door shut again.

Drakefyre pulled Smoo aside. "Prove that you're the real Smoo and not a wererat."

Smoo hung his head. "I can't, Drakefyre. Before I escaped, I told Attorosi everything about me. Any wererat would know those things as well."

"You just identified me," Drakefyre said.

"Yes, but... no, I didn't say anything about what anyone else looked like. I just gave Attorosi some names," Smoo said.

Drakefyre looked at Smoo closely. "I think you are the real Smoo. But someone will always be watching you, just to make sure. Now tell me about the rats."

"Hey! I think I'm getting a... dang it! I don't have access. The Moderator Board is blocked against scrying," Zephyr Tempest said.

"My turn to look," Randomizer said, "I'll try to locate Tyranicus and the others."

Nikki awoke. He sat up, rubbed his head, and looked around. "Arancaytar! Arancaytar! Where's my crazy kitten?"

Arancaytar gasped and tried to hide, but he was too slow.

"There you are!" Nikki jumped up. Jewels held him back.
"Let go of me! I must be reunited with my love!" Nikki flailed his arms wildly and attempted to pull free.

"I need help! He's crazy!" Jewels said.

"Um, I think I'll go see what I can do with the PPP now." Arancaytar headed for the door.

"Can you see anything?" Zeviz asked.

"Yes, I can see them. Aw, Tyranicus died again. And... where'd that lake come from!?"

"What lake?" Zeviz asked.

"Aran! Don't open the door!" Randomizer yelled.

Arancaytar halted with his hand on the door handle. "Why not?"

"Because all the melting snow made a lake just outside," Randomizer said.

"You've got to be kidding." Arancaytar stepped away from the door.

Upstairs, Dintiradan finally snapped the faded shackles holding his wrists together and pulled out a rope. "And now to escape." Dintiradan looked out the window and saw the lake below. "Or maybe not." Then he noticed the Spiderwebbers from Shadow Vale below. "Hmm. How can I best take advantage of this?"

---

Outside, Slartucker and the others were discussing how to get inside.

"So, any ideas?" Slartucker asked.

"Couldn't we just swim across the lake and open the door?" Lazarus asked.

"You idiot. See how high the water is? It's halfway up the door. If we open it, the water would flood in," Alec said.

The Silent Assassin pointed to the upper-story window.

"Good idea. Alorael! Alorael! Are you up there?" Lenar yelled.

Dintiradan leaned out the window. "Where's Stareye?"

"He's coming, but he hasn't caught up with us yet. Can you get us inside?" Lenar asked.

"It just so happens that I can, but what's in it for me?" Dintiradan asked.

Andraste got up from the top stair and hammered on the door with her club. "Dintiradan, who are you yelling at?"

"Just get us inside!" Slartucker yelled.

"You'll avoid a very unpleasant surprise from the Silent Assassin," Lenar said.

"I was thinking something more along the lines of not being held responsible for the summoning machine. And maybe preventing Andraste from breaking this door down," Dintiradan said.

Stareye, Terror's Martyr, and Kelandon reached the top of the small hill and joined the others.

"Stareye! You're hurt," Marlenny said.

"I'm fine," Stareye said.

"Good. You can convince Dintiradan to get us inside," Slartucker pointed to the second-story window.

"All you have to do is promise not to do anything to myself, Wanderer, or the Lurker for the summoning machine," Dintiradan yelled down.

"Dintiradan, what are you doing? Get them inside immediately," Andraste said, "Or I'm going to get one of the mods."

"What summoning machine?" Stareye asked.

"You'll have to get inside to find out, now won't you?" Dintiradan said, "Arguing probably isn't the best idea either, since our yelling could attract the attention of those inside. If someone opens the door, water will flood inside and then there will really be problems."

Stareye sighed. "Okay, fine. No punishment. Now get us inside."

Dintiradan threw one end of the rope out the window. "Well, climb up!"

Slartucker waded into the water first. Soon, it was too deep for him to touch, so he swam across to the rope. He climbed up it and through the window. FBM started climbing right behind him.

"But what will we do with the bodies?" Lenar asked.

"Leave them. We can have a mage and Zorro revive them in a moment." Thuryl said.

Ash Lael waded into the water as well.

"And Stareye?" Lenar asked.

"We'll bring out something for him, too." Thuryl waded into the water next.

"I suppose so," Lenar said.

Terror's Martyr handed Alec a folded piece of paper. "You know what to do with this."

Alec nodded. "Right."

"Kel, remember that I would have beat the ****** ****** ****** out of you if Stareye hadn't gotten in the way, you ***** **** *******." Terror's Martyr turned to go.

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff swam across the lake.

"Believe what you want, but it was I who would have beaten you if Stareye hadn't intervened," Kelandon said.

Terror's Martyr paused and pointed at Tyranicus's body. "Oh, and someone tell him that he's still the worst ******* ****** loser I have ever met even when he's dead." Then he walked away.

Alec swam across the lake and climbed the rope. As Marlenny waded into the lake, the Silent Assassin pointed at Lenar.

"I'm only a little nervous," Lenar said.

The Silent Assassin made several quick gestures.

"Yes, I know it'll be a lot easier than the time you snuck into the Senator's hotel room and made off with all his socks." Lenar watched Marlenny disappear inside. Kelandon started climbing right behind her. Lazarus waded into the lake. Lenar looked around and sighed. "We're the last ones. I suppose we should..."

The Silent Assassin was already swimming across. Lenar sighed and began swimming across as well.

Chapter 23: "They're coming!"

Chapter 23: "They're coming!" Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:31
In the Blades of Avernum Forum, Attorosi reprimanded the three rats responsible for guarding Smoo. "You are negligent and irresponsible. Do you realize how much information the prisoner had about us? If he..."

A mung rat entered. "First Summoned! Some humans were in the Avernum 4 Forum. The other mung rats are attacking but aren't having much success."

A white rat looked to Attorosi. "Are you ready to start the attack?"

"Yes. Take another white rat and two gargantuan rats and get an attack force put together. I'll be there soon." Attorosi paused. "Oh, and take these three rats with you. Since they failed at guarding the prisoner, they will redeem themselves by leading the charge."

The three rat guards gulped.

---

In the General Forum, everyone had made it safely inside but Lenar and the Silent Assassin. They were drying off by the fire.

"Where's Stareye?" Imban asked.

"He's still outside. He needs a healing potion before he can climb the rope. And we had a few casualties, so we need Zorro and a mage to go out there and revive them," Slartucker said.

"I'll do it all. I know how to revive people with Galactic Core. Let me just go get a copy of it and a healing potion," Zephyr Tempest jumped up and ran for the Tech Support Forum.

"Have Dikiyoba come back to this forum while you're there. I want everyone here for an announcement," Drakefyre said.

Nikki broke free of Jewels. "I'm coming, Aran!"

"Keep him away from me!" Arancaytar dashed up the stairs.

"Where are you going? Wait for me!" Nikki chased after him.

Andraste and Dintiradan stepped out of the way as Arancaytar dashed into the room and attempted to slam the door. Nikki pushed his way inside before Arancaytar could close it all the way.

"Stop him!" Arancaytar pushed the Silent Assassin out of the way and climbed out the window, not realizing that Lenar was still on the rope. In his haste, he lost his grip on the windowsill and fell into the lake, knocking Lenar off the rope in the process.

Nikki jumped onto the windowsill and prepared to jump. "Don't worry, I'll save you!"

Andraste clubbed him over the head. The Silent Assassin caught him as tipped over unconscious.

"Sorry about that," Arancaytar said. He swam towards the shore. Lenar hauled himself up the rope again, muttering.

Back downstairs, Alec unfolded the paper Terror's Martyr had given him. "All right, Terror's Martyr has a message for you all."

"Ooh, what is it?" Jewels asked.

Alec cleared his throat and read, "You all suck."

"That's it?" Jewels asked.

"That's all that doesn't violate the CoC," Alec said.

At the scrying pool, it was Zeviz's turn to look.

"Can you see anything?" Randomizer asked.

"Yes. Someone spammed the SubTerra Forum again," said Zeviz.

Rakshasi was nearby and happened to overhear. "It was probably the Stew Boy," he said.

"It was not!" the Stew Boy said.

"We should try to find the summoning machine now," Randomizer said.

"No, wait. I want to try again." Archmagus Micael looked into the scrying pool again.

"And?" Randomizer asked.

"I can still only see my reflection," Archmagus Micael said.

"Okay, you've had your turn. Now I'm going to see if I can find that summoning machine," Randomizer said.

Meanwhile, Zephyr Tempest entered the Tech Support Forum. Smoo rummaged through boxes while Dikiyoba watched him suspiciously.

"Maybe Dikiyoba can help Smoo find what Smoo is looking for?"

"No, I found it." Smoo stood up with a submission baton in his hand. He fired at Dikiyoba. Dikiyoba collapsed.

"Hey! Ice..." Smoo's second shot took out Zephyr Tempest. Smoo shot each of them again to make sure that both of them were dead before walking over to the potion cabinet and knocking several potions to the floor.

The terrified GIFTR nymphs hid in the shadows.

"What do we do, Trash Taker?"

"I don't know, Scum Scavenger."

"He smells exactly like those things that attacked us!"

Smoo halted his destruction of the potions and looked around. "Who's there?"

Just then, Garbage Gatherer and Filth Finder entered. They only needed one look before they realized what was going on.

"Hey! Wererat! Wererat!" Filth Finder yelled.

Smoo shot another thorn at Filth Finder, but it bounced harmlessly off of his exoskeleton. Garbage Gatherer hissed angrily and charged Smoo.

Knowing that everyone would arrive from the General Forum soon, Smoo dodged both of them and fled into the Announcements Forum.

"Alorael! Look out!" Garbage Gatherer yelled.

Alorael fired one more shot at the mung rats and then turned towards Smoo. Smoo fired a thorn at Alorael and missed. Alorael aimed the sniper rifle but a mung rat bit his arm before he could fire. Alorael smacked the rat with the butt of his gun. Another mung rat bit Alorael's leg. Smoo tossed the empty baton away, bolted for the Avernum 4 Forum, and escaped. Filth Finder knocked the mung rat aside while Garbage Gatherer dragged Alorael to safety.

Filth Finder caught a glimpse of a horde of rats joining the mung rats and a gargantuan rat pushing through the mung rats towards him before he fled back into the Announcements Forum and slammed the door. "They're coming!"

Chapter 24: Aggressive Advertising

Chapter 24: Aggressive Advertising Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:44
Dintiradan and Andraste carried Nikki downstairs with Lenar and the Silent Assassin following behind. Andraste and Dintiradan dropped Nikki in a corner. Most Spiderwebbers had chased after the wererat, leaving only Smoo, Wanderer, Randomizer, Zeviz, and the Mystic.

"Where did everyone go?" Lenar asked.

"After the wererat," Smoo said.

"What wererat? What's going on?" Lenar asked.

"I'll explain as much as I know. Come on, let's see what's going on," Andraste said. She, Lenar, and the Silent Assassin exited.

Randomizer finally looked away from the scrying pool and shook his head. "I've looked all over the Blades of Avernum Forum and can't find the summoning machine."

"Maybe it's still too general an area for us to scry it effectively?" Zeviz suggested.

"You look now." Randomizer stepped aside.

Dintiradan snapped Wanderer's shackles and helped him to his feet. "I've got good news. Stareye absolved us from all punishment. Where's the Lurker?"

"He went with the rest. He quit your Legion of Terror," Wanderer said.

"He did what?!" Dintiradan said, "But... but... he was half my legion! Come on!" Dintiradan and Wanderer entered the Tech Support Forum.

Ephesos was halfway through casting return life on Zephyr Tempest while Archmagus Micael watched Zorro combine neon with Galactic Core to revive Dikiyoba.

Ephesos finished with a blinding flash of light and Zephyr Tempest stood up. "This isn't quite what I had planned." He grabbed a copy of Galactic Core.

There was another flash of light as Zorro finished. Dikiyoba got up as well.

"Jumpin' Salmon informed Dikiyoba that he is very tired of being stuck in the Miscellaneous Forum and would like to be revived soon."

"I know." Zephyr Tempest grabbed the last remaining healing potion and ran back to General.

Dikiyoba knelt and picked up a large piece of glass. "Dikiyoba's potions!"

"There's a few left, at least," Ephesos said.

Back in the General Forum, Zeviz looked away from the scrying pool and shook his head. "I couldn't find it. Do you have any ideas?"

"We can scry people easily, though," Randomizer said.

"Yes. Are you suggesting that we send someone to scout out the summoning machine? That kind of defeats the purpose of the scrying pool," Zeviz said, "Smoo, you don't happen to know where the summoning machine is, do you?"

Smoo shrugged. "I'm afraid not."

Zephyr Tempest entered, crossed the room, and climbed the stairs. The Mystic hauled his pack into the coat room and began going through pockets.

"I'll go. The sooner the rats are cleared out, the sooner the GIFTR go back to their hole and stay out of my sight." Randomizer shuddered. "You can track my progress. I'll take Synergy with me. He's pretty stealthy when he wants to be."

"But..." Zeviz said.

"Hey, Mystic. Do you have another recall crystal on you?" Randomizer stepped into the coat room.

The Mystic pulled his pack close. "I might. What do you have to trade?"

"I don't have anything. What about you, Zeviz?" Randomizer said.

"All I have is a cheap watch," Zeviz said.

"Well, I'll find something," Randomizer said, "I'm off to get Synergy now." Randomizer exited.

Smoo examined the Mystic closely. "I don't recognize you. What kind of rat are you?"

"I'm a packrat."

"Oh. So you aren't with the other rats then, are you?" Smoo said.

"Of course not. Then I'd have to share." The Mystic pulled a handful of coins out of a coat pocket and dropped them into his pack. When the Mystic reached into another pocket, Smoo reached into his pack and pulled out a small silver dagger. He quickly pocketed it.

---

Arancaytar arrived at the Ermarian Network. He carefully examined the outside of it, but the snow wasn't melting hardly at all. It appeared to be safe from flooding for the moment. He let himself inside, grabbed the Magic Flute, and left.

---

Zephyr Tempest stood on the windowsill. He jumped off with a wild yell. "Woo hoo! Cannonball!" He landed in the lake with a gigantic splash. Then he swam to shore. "Here you go, Stareye." He tossed Stareye the healing potion and hauled himself out of the lake.

Stareye drank the potion and said, "What in the world is going on in there?"

"It's a long story, but basically Dintiradan created a summoning machine and Smoo summoned a bunch of rats from it. Now they're trying to take over the boards," Zephyr Tempest said, "Is it just me, or is it really hot out here?"

"Yes, it's... look out!" The lake had melted some of the snow Stareye and Zephyr Tempest were standing on. Now the snow gave way. Stareye and Zephyr Tempest jumped out of the way as it fell into the lake.

Zephyr Tempest pulled out Galactic Core and handed it to Stareye. "Hold on to this for a moment. Summon manganese!" Zephyr Tempest took Galactic Core back and combined it with the manganese. Tyranicus sat up.

"What's going on? Where am I? Is TM near by?"

"Too much, just outside of the message board, and he won't be back until the Blades of Avernum Judging contest," Stareye replied.

Zephyr Tempest revived Mysterious Man next, and then Jumpin' Salmon. Jumpin' Salmon looked at Tyranicus and Mysterious Man grumpily. "I see Dikiyoba didn't give you my message, otherwise I would have been revived first."

"Hey, I've been dead the longest. It was right that I got to be revived first," Tyranicus said.

Jumpin' Salmon laughed. "But you only..."

"Don't you dare say that I would have only d..." Tyranicus stopped speaking and fell face-forward, an arrow sticking out of his back.

"Huh. That was odd," Jumpin' Salmon said.

Stareye looked around. An adbot was clanking towards them. "Not again," he groaned.

"It looks like he needs some of these pills. They can cure everything. And I'll sell them to you for so cheap that..."

Stareye grabbed the adbot and held its head under the water until it shorted out. He tossed the adbot's body onto the shore. "Until they can cure your stupidity, we're not interested."

Jumpin' Salmon examined the body and came away with a bow and some arrows. "It looks like the adbots are getting aggressive."

---

"Look!" Zephyr Tempest said, "The snow is melting under the adbot."

Sure enough, a puddle had formed beneath the adbot and trickle of water flowed from it into the lake.

"It's not just there. Look at your feet," Mysterious Man said. The snow around them had softened into slush.

"I thought it was getting warmer," Zephyr Tempest said.

"So it seems that the temperature of the message boards is related to the amount of posting. When we lost a bunch of members and the posting rate plummeted, so did the temperature. But now that some people have been posting an incredible amount..." Stareye looked to Jumpin' Salmon.

"Hey, don't look at me like I was the only one," Jumpin' Salmon said, "Because I wasn't."

"...the temperature's going up again. But that still doesn't explain where all the water came from in the first place," Stareye said.

"You mean I just revived two of the people responsible for the rising temperature? Not fair!" Zephyr Tempest pushed Jumpin' Salmon into the lake. "Don't expect me to revive Tyranicus again, either."

"No, Zephyr. You will," Stareye said.

"Oh, fine. Summon manganese!"

"I'll see you inside." Jumpin' Salmon swam across the lake and climbed the rope as Zephyr Tempest revived Tyranicus again.

"What happened this time?" Tyranicus asked.

"An adbot," Zephyr Tempest said.

"What adbot?" Stareye asked.

"That adbot. Huh?" Zephyr Tempest pointed to the spot where the adbot used to be. The puddle was still there but the body was gone. "But... but how?"

"There never was any adbot. Come on." Stareye jumped into the lake and swam across.

Chapter 25: Shifting Forums

Chapter 25: Shifting Forums Dikiyoba Wed, 07/30/2008 - 19:45
Meanwhile, Drakefyre was the first one to reach the Announcements Forum. Nioca was right behind him. Almost everyone else crowded in behind them.

There was a thump on the door and the entire forum shook. Several announcements shook loose and floated to the floor.

"What was that?" Jewels asked.

Nioca cast a healing spell on Alorael.

"I believe that was probably the gargantuan rat," Alorael said, "I need a curing spell too, Nioca. I was bitten by mung rats."

"Oh. Sorry." Nioca cast a curing spell on Alorael as well.

The gargantuan rat thumped against the door again.

Synergy picked up the submission baton. "What do we do now?"

"Saunders, ADoS, get the fluffy turtles and bring them here as fast as possible. The rest of you, get your weapons ready. This door isn't going to hold," Drakefyre said.

The rat struck the door for a third time.

The Silent Assassin looked at Lenar.

"Don't worry. I've got my reaperdisks," Lenar said.

"Oh. I didn't want to get in another battle," the Stew Boy said sadly.

"What sort of scripting do you use in a situation like this?" Nemesis asked.

"Well, in these cases, I like to use this." Niemand pulled out the Jade Halberd.

"I see." Nemesis joined the others running for the Tech Support to get weapons.

"Yay! It's double-fisted skull smashing time!" Andraste pulled out a second club and swung them both.

"You mean it's feisty tentacle slap of pain time!" Delicious Vlish said, waving his tentacles in her face.

"Actually, it's..." Kingy looked at the empty beer can he was holding. "That's not a weapon. Never mind." Kingy stumbled off to get a weapon.

Thump! The rat hit the door again.

Randomizer entered. "Drakey, the scrying isn't going so well. But if you can get the rats away from the door for a short while, I'll go scout out the summoning machine while Zeviz watches in the scrying pool."

"I know a way to do that," Drakefyre said.

Thump! Some of the wood around the lock splintered.

"And it looks like I'll be using it soon anyway. Hurry!" Drakefyre said.

Synergy twirled the submission baton. "Are you looking for someone to go with you?"

"I was just about to ask you that. Let's go," Randomizer said.

"I'll help Zeviz write down the route he sees you take," Schrodinger said.

"Actually, cover up the scrying pool for now. You'll know when it's safe to use it again," Drakefyre said.

"Why?" Synergy asked.

Thump!

"You'll see," Drakefyre said.

Randomizer, Synergy, and Schrodinger exited. Stareye entered. "I'm here now, Drakey! What are we up against?"

"More rats than you've ever wanted to think about," Drakefyre said, "Zorro, get to the General Forum. Make sure you have a copy of Galactic Core and that Zeviz has full spell points and an energy potion or two if there are any left. If everything goes wrong, get out of here. Get to the Ermarian Network and revive Stareye and me there."

"That's not likely to happen, is it?" Marlenny asked.

"Who knows? And who cares, really?" Fatman said.

"That's terrible!" Marlenny said.

"Sheesh. Can't you people detect sarcasm?" Fatman asked.

Thump!

"Wait, where's Smoo?" Drakefyre asked.

"I thought he was in the General Forum," Andraste said.

"I didn't see him there," Stareye said.

"Are you sure he wasn't in the Tech Support Forum?" the Lurker asked.

"No, that was the wererat," Dikiyoba said.

"I don't have the time for this! If you see Smoo, kill him," Drakefyre said.

Emperor Tullegolar pointed his slith spear at Riibu. "Does this apply to all members?"

"Absolutely not," Drakefyre said.

Alorael stepped out of the shadows and lowered his sniper rifle. "Come on, Drakey. You're no fun at all."

"You were aiming at me!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Try not to take it personally," Alorael said, "You just happen to be the perfect target."

"And this is the perfect opportunity," Emperor Tullegolar mused, "Let the oldbies and the rats fight while we take over the boards."

"How?" Garrison asked.

"By building our own summoning machine, of course. We'll summon a bunch of canisters to make ourselves powerful, and then an army of loyal serviles to take out whoever is left alive after this battle."

"Do you know how?" Garrison asked.

"I got instructions from the Lurker," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"And don't you need a mage for it?"

"I'm intelligent enough to figure out a way around that particular flaw in the design," Emperor Tullegolar said, "Come on."

"But what about Nioca?" Garrison asked.

"I'm afraid Nioca is loyal to the oldbies. Leave him."

"And Nemesis?"

"Get him, but don't tell him too much. Just tell him that we're working on a backup plan to save the forums," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"I think he's still in the Tech Support Forum," Garrison said.

Emperor Tullegolar and Garrison entered the Tech Support Forum. Several people were rummaging through the inventory.

"I can't find it!" Jewels said.

"Where is it hidden?" Jadewolf asked.

"Looking for this?" Kingy had a drunken grin plastered on his face as he held up the Heartstriker Bow. "Too bad, I found it first. Now, where is the ammunition that goes with this?"

"Nemesis, we need your help," Emperor Tullegolar said.

Nemesis stopped looking for bolts. He had a sword slung across his back, a wand tucked into his belt, and held a crossbow in his hand. "For what?"

"Help us carry some equipment and then stand guard. We've got a backup plan to save the forum from the rats." Emperor Tullegolar sorted through some mechanical parts and handed them to Nemesis.

"But where will we make it at?" Garrison asked as Emperor Tullegolar gave him some equipment.

Emperor Tullegolar pulled the key to the Moderator Board out of his pocket. "Where do you think?"

---

Synergy, Randomizer, and Schrodinger entered the General Forum. Zeviz sat by the scrying pool still. Schrodinger grabbed some paper and a pen. "I'll take the notes, so you can concentrate on the scrying. But for now, Drakefyre wants the scrying pool covered."

"Did he say why?" Zeviz asked.

"No." Schrodinger snapped a lid onto the bucket.

Synergy struggled with a package of madness gems. "Why must they make these so difficult to open? Anyone got a knife on them?"

"Here you go." Zeviz handed Synergy a small silver dagger.

"I thought you said you didn't have anything," Randomizer said.

"I didn't want to give it to the Mystic," Zeviz said.

Synergy sliced the packaging open and then looked at the knife closely. "I don't blame you. This is an Assassin's Dagger." He handed it back to Zeviz.

"I know. It's very useful," Zeviz said.

"Hand me two of those madness gems, Synergy," Randomizer said.

"Here you go, Randomizer," Synergy said.

Randomizer stepped into the coat room. "Here. I'll trade you two madness gems for a recall crystal."

The Mystic grabbed the madness gems and stuffed them into his pack. "That seems fair enough." He handed Randomizer a recall crystal.

"Let's go," said Randomizer, "Oh, and you should bring your pack down to the Announcements Forum. What's the point of collecting all your stuff for if you don't use it in an epic battle?"

"Because I like having it around," the Mystic said.

Zorro handed Zeviz an energy potion.

"What is this for?" Zeviz asked.

"Drakefyre wants you to be prepared in case we have to revive people," Zorro said.

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff opened the trapdoor to the fluffy turtle pit. "Come on, Inspector Walnut. We've found a source of sanity for you, but you will have to fight for it."

The fluffy turtles climbed out of the pit and shuffled around agitatedly. Saunders jumped into the pit and lifted out a few who were so weak they couldn't climb out on their own.

---

In the Moderator Board, Garrison and Nemesis dropped the equipment in a pile.

"Nemesis, guard the door. Garrison, start putting everything together." Emperor Tullegolar walked towards the Administrator Panel.

"But I don't know how!" Garrison said.

"You'll figure it out!" Emperor Tullegolar examined the Administrator Panel. It was dark. He pushed a button and the displays came to life. The largest one read, PASSWORD REQUIRED. "Password? I have no idea, and I don't want to set off any alarms. Oh well." Emperor Tullegolar joined Garrison.

"No, no, no. You're doing it all wrong. Here, attach this piece to that piece, and then run this wire from there to there. See how easy it is?"

---

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff led the fluffy turtles to the Announcements Forum. "Make way, let the fluffy turtles through!"

The door was badly splintered now but still held.

"Where's Randomizer and Synergy?" Drakefyre asked.

"Right here," Synergy said.

"Good. I hope you're ready." Drakefyre stepped into the Moderator Board, not noticing that it was already unlocked. He crashed into Nemesis. "What are you doing here? And you, Garrison?" he demanded.

Garrison looked at the half-finished summoning machine. Emperor Tullegolar was nowhere to be seen. "We were... we were..."

"Never mind. I'll deal with you in a moment." Drakefyre dashed for the Administrator Panel. He flipped a few buttons. "This is a terrible thing to do when the boards are still up and active, but I don't have any other choice." Drakefyre flipped a switch. There was a grinding noise and the entire forum began to shake.

---

In the Announcements Forum, everyone waited nervously for the next hit from the gargantuan rat and for Drakefyre's plan to begin.

Thump! Crack! The lock snapped and the door started to swing open. Stareye threw his weight against the door.

"Hold them back!" he yelled. Several other Spiderwebbers joined him against the door. Others readied their weapons.

Thump! The gargauntan rat slammed into the door again. Stareye and the others were knocked to the ground and the door swung open. The rats cheered squeakily. The gargantuan rat charged into the Announcements Forum. Halfway through the door, it got stuck. It couldn't push itself forward or backward. It emitted a squeak that was more like a roar and attempted to crush Stareye beneath a paw. Stareye rolled out of the way just in time. The gargantuan rat slowly pushed its way into the forum.

"Missile users, fire!" Stareye said.

Suddenly, the whole forum began to shake. Spiderwebbers were thrown against each other and onto the floor. The posters and bulletin boards all fell off the wall. The gargantuan rat was thrown out the door. Stareye managed to stagger to his feet. He caught a glimpse of the outside and the lake before he slammed the door shut.

"What did Drakefyre do?" Khoth asked.

"He's changing the order of the forums," Stareye said.

---

In the SubTerra Forum, the movement shook the gash in the wall from the ur-noob months ago loose again. Water began seeping through the hole, slowly at first but faster and faster as the water pressure made the hole greater. Soon, a layer of spam floated on several feet of water, and water continued to pour in.

---

In the General Forum, Zeviz grabbed the scrying pool and Zorro grabbed Galactic Core off the table as everything began to shift around. The table slid across the forum and crashed into the wall. Things fell and shattered in the kitchen. The second story window slammed shut and the Periodic Table of Spiderwebbers crashed to the ground. Schrodinger caught Nikki as he slid by.

Nikki woke up. "What's happening?"

"I'm not sure," Schrodinger said.

---

Outside, Arancaytar returned from the Ermarian Network. He stared at the quaking message board in disbelief. The boards separated between the Avernum 4 Forum and the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum and the top forums rose into the air. Then the Avernum 4 Forum broke off from the general forums and the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum split off from the rest of the games forums. Something fell from the Announcements Forum and landed in the lake. The Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum reattached itself to the Announcements Forum and the Avernum 4 Forum landed on the Geneforge Series Forum. The two halves of the message board reconnected. Then it sat still. Arancaytar waited a few more moments to make sure it was really done. He swam across the lake, climbed the rope, pushed the window open, and crawled inside.

Chapter 26: The Saga of Synergy and Randomizer

Chapter 26: The Saga of Synergy and Randomizer Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 20:40
As soon as the shaking stopped, Stareye opened the door.

"It's clear. Go," he said.

Synergy and Randomizer ducked under the construction tape and sneaked away. Randomizer carried the last energy potion and the recall crystal. Synergy had the submission baton, a pouch of thorns, and several madness gems.

"So, what are we going to do?" Synergy asked.

"We search the Blades of Avernum Forum until we find the summoning machine, of course," Randomizer said.

"And if we see any rats?"

"You shoot, I cast spray acid, and we both run."

"Sounds like a plan. But what if we get cornered by a whole bunch of rats?"

"You throw a madness gem. Then you shoot and I cast spray acid while we run."

"What if that doesn't work?" Synergy asked.

"You'll talk our way out of it one way or another," Randomizer said.

Near the exit, Synergy and Randomizer shrank against a wall and waited quietly. A horde of rats entered the forum.

Synergy attempted to count them as they charged past but soon gave up. "The others will certainly have their work cut out for them. That's a lot of rats."

Randomizer waited until the last few rats were past him. "Spray acid... spray acid... spray acid," he whispered, "There. Now they have a few less to worry about."

"Don't use up all your spell energy now. We might need it later," Synergy said.

"Relax. I'm keeping track. Ready?" Randomizer asked.

"Ready," Synergy said.

Randomizer cast haste and they ducked into the Avernum 4 Forum.

---

Zeviz picked up the book and quickly read the section on scrying. "Just double-checking to make sure I haven't missed anything." Then he uncovered the scrying pool.

"What can you see?" Schrodinger asked.

Zeviz frowned. "Nothing. It's completely dark."

"Hmm. They must already be in the Avernum 4 Forum," Schrodinger said.

"Ah. You're right. They just entered the Geneforge Series Forum," Zeviz said.

Zorro slammed Galactic Core down on the table in disgust. "How does he keep doing that? Icshi beat me again!"

Nikki and Zeviz both looked around in confusion, but they couldn't see Icshi.

"Zorro, be careful. That might end up being the only way to revive people," Schrodinger said.

"Icshi always said this game is like cotton candy. Can you damage cotton candy by hitting it against that table? I think not. Besides, even if something were to happen to this copy, there are three other copies in the Tech Support Forum," Zorro said.

"Oh, fine," Schrodinger said, "Zeviz, where are they now?"

"They're at the edge of the Geneforge Series Forum. The entrance to the Blades of Avernum Forum is guarded by rats, so they've stopped to discuss what to do."

---

Synergy finished counting the number of guards. "Actually, there aren't as many rats as I first thought. They just follow a circular path, so it looks like more than there really are," Synergy said.

"We could sneak past them easily enough. We're hasted, and there are several blue rats we could dodge past," Randomizer said.

"Nope, there's always a red rat near a blue rat. They're fast and hard to see, but they're there," Synergy said.

"Then we will just have to take a few out on our way through," Randomizer said.

Synergy stepped into the open as a blue rat lumbered past with the red rat scampering around it. "Hey!"

The rats halted in confusion. Before they could recover and call for help, Synergy shot the blue rat twice and Randomizer hit the red rat with the spray acid spell. They rolled the bodies out of the way and hid as a giant rat neared.

"Do we try to get that one too?" Randomizer asked.

"Let's not push our luck," Synergy said.

They waited until all the rats had passed and then used the opening that the blue and red rat should have been guarding to sneak into the Blades of Avernum Forum.

---

"They're in. They haven't seen anything suspicious yet, so they're just scouting. Oh, wait, they've stopped." Zeviz appeared to be slightly nervous as he stared into the scrying pool, but Schrodinger didn't notice.

"Where?" he asked.

"At the, um, base of a small hill with a... a boulder near the top of it," Zeviz said.

---

Synergy and Randomizer hid at the base of the hill. Randomizer spotted three rats on the boulder. They seemed to be watching something below them.

"What do you think they're up to?" Randomizer asked.

Synergy reloaded his baton. "Let's find out."

Synergy killed two of the rats with thorns. Randomizer got the third with his spray acid spell. Then they cautiously climbed the hill. At the top, they found Smoo tied up, gagged, and badly beaten.

Synergy and Randomizer looked at each other in confusion.

"Didn't you see Smoo back in the General Forum?" Synergy asked.

"Yeah, I did. But if Smoo is here, it must have been a wererat," Randomizer said.

"I think we caught it, though. Remember how Smoo went missing after the commotion in the Tech Support Forum?" Synergy said.

"I think the wererat escaped, actually."

"Well, that's unfortunate. But the point is, it's no longer a danger."

Smoo started struggling for the first time and tried to say something. Synergy removed the gag.

"There were two wererats," Smoo gasped out.

"What?" Synergy stared at Smoo in disbelief.

"Attorosi had just sent one wererat disguised as me back to the others when I managed to escape. But the guards realized I was missing and recaptured me. Then Attorosi sent out another wererat disguised as me. That way, if one failed the other probably wouldn't," Smoo said.

"And it worked too," Randomizer said grimly, "Drakefyre was convinced that one of the wererats was you. But how did it know who Drakefyre was? Wait... did you tell this Attorosi who everyone was?"

"Not everyone. Just a few names." Smoo winced. "And before Attorosi sent the second wererat, I told them what the administrators looked like. I'm so sorry."

"Did either one of the wererats return?" Randomizer asked.

"I don't know. I only know the wererats were sent out because they needed to see me up close to assume my form," Smoo said.

"How do the wererats transform, anyway?" Synergy asked.

"Some sort of magic. I don't really know how," Smoo said.

"But why did Attorosi keep you alive? Can wererats only take on the shape of people who are alive or something?" Randomizer asked.

"I don't see why a person would have to be alive for the wererats to transform. Attorosi was just afraid someone would revive me if the rats killed me. And it needed information from me anyway."

Synergy started to untie Smoo's hands.

"No, don't do that. Kill me," Smoo said.

"Kill you?" Synergy said.

Randomizer shrugged. "Makes sense to me. We'll make sure he's revived as soon as we get back. He's in no shape to escape or to spy with us. We can't leave him here or the rats will get more information from him. Like information about us."

"You're right. Sorry, Smoo." Synergy aimed the baton at Smoo and fired. Then he turned away, unable to look.

Randomizer checked for a pulse. "He's dead. Now let's get out of here before any rats show up."

"Which direction?" Synergy asked.

Randomizer looked around. He pointed to a small cliff. "There. See, doesn't that look like a small crack in the base of it?"

"Perhaps. We have to get closer to know for sure."

As Synergy and Randomizer crept closer to the cliff, Synergy whispered, "Do you think we should go back and tell the others about the second wererat? I mean, we may or may not have a wererat loose in the remaining forums and it may or may not be able to transform into whoever it wants."

"I wish we could, but this is our one chance to find the summoning machine. Finding it is more important than finding one wererat," Randomizer said, "Besides, Zeviz is scrying us, remember? By now, Drakefyre and Stareye probably know about it."

---

"Zeviz, you've been quiet for a while. What do you see? Are you still tracking Synergy and Randomizer?" Schrodinger asked.

Zeviz was visibly anxious now. "What? Oh, yes. They just stopped to discuss where to go next. They've decided to go, uh, towards the mountains now."

Schrodinger jotted a few notes down. "Got it. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I... yes. It's just the strain from scrying for so long. But I've got it under control now."

The Mystic emerged from the coat room with his pack. "I think I'll do what Randomizer suggested and join the others. But it's so hard to let go of all my stuff. On second thought, maybe I'll just..."

Nikki picked up the pack and held it out of the Mystic's reach. "It's not your stuff." He pulled out a stack of pink stationary. "See? This is mine."

"Hey, give it back! Give it back!" the Mystic said.

Nikki slid the pack onto his back and ran towards the Tech Support Forum. "I think not. Your stuff belongs to everyone, so I'm taking it back to everyone."

"No, don't do that! Wait! Wait!" The Mystic ran after him.

"They just reached the base of the mountains and are hiking up that small trail to the top," Zeviz told Schrodinger.

Arancaytar entered the General Forum and wrung water out of his scarf. He looked around and saw only Zeviz, Schrodinger, and Zorro. "Where is everyone?"

"Synergy and Randomizer just reached the spot where the ambush took place. Now they're looking around," Zeviz said.

"In the Announcements Forum, Arancaytar. The rats have just started their attack," Schrodinger said.

"Okay, thanks," Arancaytar ran off.

"Be careful around Nikki, he's already down there," Schrodinger said.

"Synergy just boosted Randomizer over a small cliff. The ruined city is on the other side. There are rats swarming everywhere," Zeviz said.

"So they've found it?" Schrodinger asked.

"I'm not quite sure exactly where yet, though," Zeviz said.

---

Synergy and Randomizer both halted and hid behind a boulder.

Synergy inspected the crack in the cliff. "It certainly looks like it could be the entrance to a cave. What do you think, Randomizer?"

Randomizer was several feet away, crawling towards the cave. A moment later, he crawled back. "It's a cave. There are several blue rats standing around just inside and I could smell mung rats."

"That must be where the summoning machine is, then. Any chance of sneaking inside unseen?" Synergy asked.

"Not at all," Randomizer said, "This is as close as we can get."

"Then get out the recall crystal," Synergy said.

---

"There!" exclaimed Zeviz, "A rat just came up near the base of a ruined statue. The summoning machine must be below it."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Which statue?"

"It's the only statue that's left standing."

Schrodinger wrote it down and stood up. "Thanks. I'll go tell Stareye and Drakefyre." Schrodinger exited.

Zeviz looked around. He and Zorro were the only ones left in the forum. He stood up and drew his dagger.

"Yes! Yes! I won! I finally beat Icshi! I..." Zorro collapsed as Zeviz drove the dagger into his back. Zeviz smashed Galactic Core and walked into the Tech Support Forum.

Chapter 27: The Battle Begins

Chapter 27: The Battle Begins Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 20:45
In the Tech Support Forum, Ephesos and Nioca picked up several first aid kits. Dikiyoba was gathering up the remaining potions.

"What do we have left?" Ephesos asked.

"Dikiyoba found a curing potion, two healing potions, enough herbs for three energy potions, and an invulnerability potion."

"Hmm. No balm of life potions?" Ephesos asked.

"No," Dikiyoba said.

"The invulnerability potion should probably go with someone planning to go destroy the summoning machine. I'll take the curing and healing potions," Ephesos said.

As Ephesos took the potions, Riibu entered.

"What are you doing here?" Nioca asked.

Riibu attempted to hide in all the equipment. "Staying well away from the fighting. I'm not a fighter. I'm just going to stay here until it's all over. Like the GIFTR are."

Filth Finder poked his head out of a dark corner. "We're only here because we have nymphs to care for. It's not good for children to be involved in war."

"You could help anyone who gets injured over to us," Nioca said.

Riibu shuddered. "No way!"

"Or you could act as a runner and get supplies that people need," Ephesos said.

"That's an idea. I'll think about it. And maybe I'll do it," Riibu said.

Ephesos and Nioca entered the Announcements Forum and dropped the first aid kits against a wall. The Stew Boy sat out of the way, looking unhappy.

"What's the matter, Stew Boy?" Ephesos asked.

"I'm not much of a fighter. I just don't think I can..." the Stew Boy said.

"How does helping anyone who get hurt over to us sound?" Ephesos asked.

"I could do that, I suppose. Thanks," the Stew Boy said.

---

Emperor Tullegolar rubbed his head where it had slammed into the Admin Panel and adjusted his grip on the slith spear.

Drakefyre turned to Garrison and Nemesis. "Now, what are you doing in here? How did you get in here?"

Emperor Tullegolar slowly rose behind Drakefyre.

"We were... we were..." Garrison stuttered, "Behind you!"

Drakefyre drew his waveblade and whirled around, blocking the spear thrust. "Tullegolar!"

Emperor Tullegolar glared at Garrison. "Traitor! I... I... I knew it! Just like we planned, Nemesis! Kill him!"

"Er... what?" Nemesis looked bewildered.

Garrison drew his sword and turned to Nemesis angrily. "You and Tullegolar were plotting together!?"

"No, I..." Nemesis fumbled to load his crossbow. Garrison struck the crossbow out of his hands. "Hey!" Nemesis drew his sword and attacked.

Emperor Tullegolar parried the Drakefyre and placed himself in front of the Administrator Panel. He and Drakefyre watched each other for a moment, both searching for the other's weaknesses.

Garrison and Nemesis dueled their way around the table and towards the bookshelf. Nemesis tripped over a fallen book and fell. Garrison quickly stabbed Nemesis.

"There." Garrison started to turn away but stopped as Nemesis's sword rose into the air of its own accord. "What the...?" Garrison attempted to fend it off, but it moved too quickly for him. Nemesis's sword ran Garrison through. As Garrison collapsed, the sword dropped to the ground with a loud clang.

"Divine warrior!" Drakefyre's blade moved in a blur. Emperor Tullegolar barely blocked the next two strikes. The third one heavily grazed his side. He fell to his knees, but still managed to stab at Drakefyre. The spear bounced off harmlessly, and Drakefyre kicked it out of Emperor Tullegolar's hands.

Emperor Tullegolar held his injured side and glared at Drakefyre. "At least I did something to deserve being banned this time, huh? But wait... Dintiradan, the Lurker, and Wanderer attempted to take over the boards too and they aren't going to be banned, are they? Everyone else has plenty of leeway, but the second I step out of line..."

Drakefyre ignored him and turned towards the Administrator Panel. He pressed a button.

"No!" Emperor Tullegolar kicked out, knocking Drakefyre to the floor.

Drakefyre stood back up slowly, attempting to keep his anger in check and rubbing his knee.

Emperor Tullegolar fumbled in his robes for something.

"If you think you'll ever..." Drakefyre stopped speaking as Emperor Tullegolar hurled the mechanic pencil. It buried itself in Drakefyre's chest. Drakefyre pulled it out and snapped it. "That hole you keep digging yourself into looks more and more like a grave every time you... you..." Drakefyre doubled over from the poison. "You..."

Emperor Tullegolar crawled over to his slith spear, and then pulled himself upright, leaning on the Administrator Panel for support. "Yes. Me." He stabbed Drakefyre. Then he stabbed him again, just to make sure he was truly dead. He saw that Nemesis and Garrison were both on the ground and laughed. "It's a shame to lose my supporters, but Garrison was apparently a spy and Nemesis was probably a weakling anyway. Besides, I have control over the Administrator Panel now, so it was all worth it." He examined the Administrator Panel. All the labels and displays were in a strange, alien alphabet. Emperor Tullegolar recognized it immediately. "What! It's in Novah!"

---

The missile users stood in the middle of the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. Alorael has climbed onto a half-built fountain to get a better vantage point. The Silent Assassin stood beside Lenar, though he was armed with only a knife. Behind the missile users, Saunders and the Almighty Do-er of Stuff held the fluffy turtles back.

The first of the rats charged across the forum, led by a gargantuan rat, a white rat, and three giant rats. Alorael began to snipe, but everyone else had to wait until the rats got into range.

"The white and green rats are dangerous from a distance, so aim for them first. The red rats are mostly harmless but they can get underfoot and trip you up, so watch for them," Delicious Vlish said.

The rats drew nearer. Inspector Walnut took a few steps forward, but the Almighty Do-er of Stuff stopped him. "Not yet. Wait just a little longer."

"They're in range now. Fire!" Stareye said.

A volley of arrows, bolts, razordisks, javelins, thorns, and magic spells struck the rats. Lenar's reaperdisk killed the gargantuan rat, which took out several rats next to it when it fell. The three giant rats in the lead fled when Delicious Vlish's terror spell hit them. The white rat dodged Student of Trinity's rock.

"Green rats! Curse them!" The white rat cast a firebolt at Lazarus. Lazarus ducked just in time. Several Spiderwebbers were hit by curse rays and fumbled with their weapons.

"Fire again!" Stareye said. More projectiles landed amid the rats.

Ephesos joined the missile users. "How's it going?"

Tyranicus threw another javelin. "Not bad. Oof." A curse ray knocked Tyranicus to the ground. "I'm not dead yet, so that's something."

"RETRIBUTION!!!" Ephesos's spell took out the green rat and several rats close to it.

---

The Stew Boy helped Fatman to the Announcements Forum and ran off to help someone else.

"What happened?" Nioca asked as he cast a healing spell.

"I got hit by a firebolt spell from one of the rats, that's what happened. What did you think, a barbeque accident?" Fatman said.

"Well, you're all healed up now."

"So I can go back and get pummeled by the rats again? Gee, thanks."

While Nioca and Fatman were distracted, Emperor Tullegolar staggered out of the Moderator Board.

"Tullegolar! Look at you!" Nioca said.

"Yes, I was injured while, um, preventing Tyranicus from being slain by a red rat."

"That was noble of you. Here." Nioca cast a healing spell on Emperor Tullegolar.

"Thanks."

"Um, you're not done with me. You said I was all healed up while I clearly am not. See?" Fatman showed Nioca a small scratch on his arm. Emperor Tullegolar used the opportunity to sneak back into the Moderator Board.

---

The moment Emperor Tullegolar was gone, Garrison used the last of his strength and the bookshelf to pull himself up. He looked over the books sitting on the shelf until he found the Novah-English dictionary. He also grabbed the book on fluffy kittens. He ripped the covers off of the books and switched them. Then he placed the fluffy kitten book in the Novah-English dictionary cover back on the shelf. He crawled over the quilting corner and tucked the dictionary under the quilt. Then he crawled over the partially-built summoning machine. He grabbed a hammer and stood up again.

Emperor Tullegolar entered. He saw Garrison and shook his head.

Garrison was about to swing the hammer into the summoning machine when Emperor Tullegolar pulled the hammer from his hand and pushed him to the ground.

"Fool!" Emperor Tullegolar said, "I don't need the summoning machine anymore. Thanks to Drakey, I'm past the password on the Admin Panel. All I need now is to translate the Novah into English, and I will have complete control over the boards."

Emperor Tullegolar searched the bookshelf until he found the Novah-English dictionary. He opened it eagerly, only to be faced with a picture of a fluffy kitten playing with a toothbrush. "What is this?" He tossed it aside. "All right, Garrison, where is the real book?"

"I'll... never... tell..." Garrison died.

Emperor Tullegolar started checking every book on the bookshelf. "I'll find it eventually."

---

Stareye dodged a firebolt. "Okay, Saunders. They're close enough. Release the fluffy turtles."

The fluffy turtles knocked Spiderwebbers to the ground as they charged past and tore into the rats.

The Lurker shuddered. "Almost makes you feel sorry for the rats, doesn't it?"

"Serves them right for not leaving their sanity at the door. Speaking of insanity, is it true that you quit my Legion of Terror?" Dintiradan asked.

"Yes. Why?"

"Then this is for you!" Dintiradan smashed Homeland into the back of the Lurker's head.

The Lurker rubbed his head. "Ow! What was that for?"

"You're not dead! If something as evil as Homeland doesn't affect you, then... never mind. I'm not going to think through the implications of that right now," Dintiradan said.

"Melee fighters, kill any rats that break through. Missile users, fire over the fluffy turtles," Stareye said, "Has anyone seen Drakefyre recently?"

Chapter 28: Ocean Bound

Chapter 28: Ocean Bound Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 20:54
The water had filled up the entire SubTerra Forum. Now it began to slosh into the Richard White Games Forum. A red rat scouting the Nethergate Forum for anything interesting saw it begin to leak into that forum as well. It closed the door and ran off to tell Attorosi.

---

Ephesos joined Nioca and Fatman in the Announcements Forum. He pointed to Fatman. "What's he doing here?"

"Nioca is a lousy cleric. He refuses to heal me. See?" Fatman pointed to the small scratch on his arm.

"I'm not wasting any spell energy on that either. Get out of here," Ephesos said.

"All right, fine. But remember it's not my fault when this injury prevents me from slaying a rat coming after you." Fatman slouched off.

Riibu still lurked in the Tech Support Forum. Dikiyoba finished making the energy potions. "Dikiyoba thinks Riibu should come help out."

"Absolutely not!"

Dikiyoba shrugged and entered the Announcements Forum. Dikiyoba handed one energy potion each to Ephesos and Nioca. "Who should Dikiyoba give the third potion to?"

"Probably Zephyr," Ephesos said.

Dikiyoba exited into the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. A moment later, Nikki entered with the Mystic's pack still above his head and the Mystic at his heels.

"Come on, give it back!" the Mystic snapped.

"There might be something useful to you in here. Catch!" Nikki threw the bag to Ephesos. Then he blocked the passage so that the Mystic couldn't get by.

"That's my stuff!" the Mystic protested as Ephesos dumped the bag out and started sorting through all the junk. Most of it was coins, crystals, gems, bars of metal, and jewelry. However, Ephesos sorted out two madness gems, several wands, and a balm of life potion.

"Oh good." Ephesos tucked the potion into his robes. He packed everything else but the wands and madness gems back up.

Nikki let the Mystic by. The Mystic snatched the pack up. "You've ruined my collection. I hope you're happy."

"Oh, I am." Nikki pulled out his stationary and searched for a pencil. "Wait... where is it? I've lost my pencil! How can I write poetry without it? I guess I'll just take distribute these instead." Nikki took the wands and gems and left.

Stareye entered from the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. "Has Drakefyre come out yet?"

"Not that I know of," Nioca said.

"What's he been up to this whole time?" Stareye started to open the door.

---

In the Moderator Board, Emperor Tullegolar checked the last book on the bookshelf. "Okay, so Garrison hid it somewhere else. Where would he have hidden it? In the summoning machine?" Emperor Tullegolar checked everywhere around it. "Not there. Where else?" Emperor Tullegolar caught sight of a small lump under the quilt. He yanked the quilt off of it and snatched the book triumphantly. "Ahahaha! Finally."

Using the dictionary, he found the command to delete an account. "Here we go. Except I don't want to delete Imban. Well, I do eventually. But I want to delete other people first." Emperor Tullegolar hit a few more buttons, but the display still remained set on Imban.

The doorknob turned slightly. Emperor Tullegolar quickly ducked behind the administrator panel. The door didn't open. Emperor Tullegolar got up and hid beside the door. "That was close. I don't know why they changed their mind, but I'll get them when they come back."

---

It turns out that Arancaytar's arrival had distracted Stareye. "I'm back. Where's Drakefyre?"

"That's what I'm about to find out. If..."

Schrodinger entered. "I have the location of the summoning machine."

"Good. The two of you should select the people you think will be best suited to destroy the machine. I'll be back shortly to cause a distraction that will give you enough time to slip past the rats." Stareye opened the door and stepped inside the Moderator Board. He closed the door and started to look around. The Moderator Board was in complete disarray. "Drakef...?"

Wham! Emperor Tullegolar slammed the handle of his slith spear against Stareye's head. Stareye fell over unconscious.

Emperor Tullegolar smiled. "Ha! This time, you lose."

---

Meanwhile, the fluffy turtles caused devastation among the rats and the Spiderwebbers easily dealt with any rats that got past them. The white rat retreated to where the three giant rats stood now that the fear affect had worn off.

"What are you doing?" the white rat snapped.

"We're thinking up a new strategy. In case you haven't noticed, we're losing against those fluffy turtle things," one of the giant rats said, "Only a few rats have been able to get through."

"Yes... and they've all been mung rats! They must not taste good or something," another of the giant rats said.

"I don't blame them," said the third giant rat.

"Then bring the mung rats up front and have the others retreat a little," the first giant rat said.

"Right!" The second and third giant rats scampered off. "Mung rats up front, all others fall back! Mung rats up front, all others..."

"That won't be enough," the white rat said.

The first giant rat stared at the white rat. "You... you know magic."

"Of course. Your point?"

"The humans don't have many magic users. They have a few, but not as many as we do."

"In case you haven't noticed, my firebolt hasn't been very successful so far."

"I'm not talking about your firebolt. I'm talking about your ability to haste, bless, and shield other rats. There are plenty of white rats, if Freedom for Rats would just send them out here."

"But the other white rats are working with Freedom for Rats to..."

"I don't care what they're working on. We need them out here. Hey, you. Run back to Freedom for Rats and tell it that we're losing and we need the white rats here now."

The red rat nodded and ran off.

---

A group of Spiderwebbers watched the rats begin to retreat.

"We're beating them!" Andraste said.

"Not all of them," Slartucker said, "The mung rats aren't retreating. The rats are planning something."

Arancaytar joined the group. "Who wants to go destroy the summoning machine?"

"I will," Thuryl said.

"That depends. Will you being going?" Nikki asked.

"Uh..." Arancaytar walked away quickly.

"Hey! Wait up!"

Schrodinger paused near the fountain. "Alorael, do you..." Schrodinger noticed that Alorael wasn't sniping. "...do you feel alright?"

Alorael set his sniper rifle and bottle of skribbane down. "No, I don't. I feel sick. I..." Alorael was interrupted by a horrible coughing spasm.

"I'll get Ephesos!" The Stew Boy ran off. A short time later, Ephesos and Nioca pushed their way through the crowd of curious Spiderwebbers.

"What's the matter?" Ephesos asked.

Alorael started to reply but ended up coughing instead. Ephesos cast a curing spell, but Alorael continued to cough.

"It's not working," Nioca said.

"I noticed that," Ephesos snapped.

---

Synergy and Randomizer appeared back in the General Forum.

"Zeviz, did you... oh no." Randomizer groaned as he caught sight of Zorro's body and the broken Galactic Core.

"It looks like the wererat was ready before we were," Synergy said.

Zorro stirred and sat up.

"You weren't dead?" Randomizer asked.

"I was dead but then Icshi retroactively changed it so I never died."

Randomizer looked around in confusion, but Synergy just shook his head.

"Where's Zeviz?" he asked.

"I don't know. He probably left after attacking me," Zorro said.

"Wait, the wererat was Zeviz? But that means that nothing we learned about the wererat or the location of the summoning machine got through," Randomizer said.

"Right before I got killed, Schrodinger left with the supposed location of the summoning machine."

"The wererat wouldn't have given out the right location. Come on, Synergy, we have to stop the wererat and prevent anyone being sent out to destroy the summoning machine with the wrong information."

"Hold on a moment," Synergy said, "Zorro, why didn't Icshi restore Galactic Core as well?"

"He said I should take up Ocean Bound instead. I don't know what he meant by that."

---

Zeviz entered the Tech Support Forum and began looking through the equipment, which was now very disorganized from everyone searching through it.

"What are you looking for?" Riibu asked.

"Oh, uh, Zorro wanted me to check on the other copies of Galactic Core."

"I see," Riibu said.

"Aha! Here are two copies." Zeviz quickly pocketed them. "But where is the third?"

A nymph named Debris Discoverer edged towards Zeviz curiously and then scuttled away hurriedly. "Mom! Dad! He smells like those... those..."

Garbage Gatherer waved her antennae. "Wererat!"

"What?" Riibu asked.

Zeviz backed away from the GIFTRs and toward the Announcements Forum. Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer charged him as Randomizer and Synergy entered.

"Zeviz!" Randomizer yelled.

Zeviz pulled Riibu in front of him and held the assassin's blade against her throat.

"No! What are you doing?" Riibu exclaimed.

The GIFTRs halted, unsure of what to do. Zeviz continued backing towards the Announcements Forum, using Riibu as a shield.

Randomizer raised his hands into spell-casting position. "I'll just spray acid them both."

"No! I don't want to die!" Riibu said.

Synergy stepped in front of Randomizer. "You can't do that!"

"And why not?"

Meanwhile, Zeviz was almost out of the forum.

"He's getting away!" Filth Finder started towards Zeviz again. Zeviz shoved Riibu away. She stumbled over Filth Finder. Zeviz made it to the Announcements Forum, slammed the door, and ran for the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

"What are you doing?" the Mystic asked.

"Out of my way!" Zeviz kicked the pack over, spilling its contents everywhere.

"Not again!" The Mystic scurried around gathering everything back up.

---

In the General Forum, Zorro sat muttering to himself. "Ocean Bound. Ocean Bound. What did Icshi mean by that?" Finally, Zorro got up and entered the Tech Support Forum. He grabbed a copy of Ocean Bound and returned to the General Forum. He started a game. "I suppose I'll find out."

Chapter 29: When Bovines Attack

Chapter 29: When Bovines Attack Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 21:03
Ephesos cast another curing spell. Alorael managed to stop coughing. "I think it must be from the mung rat bites," he said weakly.

"Look out!" Niemand yelled.

The fluffy turtles had hesitated to attack the filth-coated mung rats. A group of mung rats trampled several fluffy turtles and broke through. Niemand hacked at the first one with his halberd. Kingy shot another.

Alorael began coughing again.

"I don't think Alorael will be needing this." Jumpin' Salmon grabbed the sniper rifle, climbed onto the fountain, and sniped a rat.

Ephesos pulled out the curing potion but Alorael was coughing too hard to drink it. "Nothing's working."

"Dikiyoba thinks graymold salve might work. Of course, Dikiyoba doesn't have any graymold."

"Could you get some?" Ephesos asked.

Dikiyoba hesitated. "Well... maybe. Dikiyoba would have to get past the rats into the Avernum 4 Forum somehow. And get past the rats again to get back."

Ephesos cleared his throat. "You could get out with those going to destroy the summoning machine, but getting back would be more difficult."

"Dikiyoba still has the invulnerability potion, so that would work." Dikiyoba left to join Arancaytar and Schrodinger.

Ephesos helped Alorael up. "Come on. I'll take you to the Tech Support Forum so you can lie down for a while."

"Who do we have going?" Schrodinger asked.

"Archmagus Micael, Thuryl, Rakshasi, Student of Trinity, and JadeWolf."

"And me too!" Nikki said.

Arancaytar sighed. "And Nikki as well."

"Can I come along too? It's partially my fault that this happened and I'd like to repair the damage as best as I can," the Lurker said.

"Sure," Schrodinger said.

"Wait!" Dikiyoba said.

"Are you coming too, Diki?" Arancaytar asked.

"Only to the Avernum 4 Forum."

"I think we're ready to go. Now all we're waiting for is Stareye," Schrodinger said.

Zeviz made his way towards the rats while the Spiderwebbers were distracted. One of the mung rats lunged for him, but the wererat transformed back into rat shape.

"Hey!" MagmaDragoon said, seeing the transformation.

The mung rat leapt at him instead. He slashed it with the Guardian Claymore. The wererat slipped through the fluffy turtles and made it safely to the rest of the rat horde.

"How come the fluffy turtles didn't go after it?" MagmaDragoon asked.

Andraste brained two mung rats with her clubs. "I don't know."

Inspector Walnut and several other fluffy turtles got past the mung rats and attacked the other rats. The wererat ran past the turtles. "Get rid of your sanity!"

"What?" a giant rat asked.

The wererat grabbed the rat, pulled out its sanity, and threw it to Inspector Walnut. Inspector Walnut gobbled it up. Then the wererat threw the giant rat at Inspector Walnut. The fluffy turtle ignored it.

"See? The fluffy turtles only attack those with sanity. The prisoner mentioned some ritual about 'leaving your sanity at the door,' so I left my sanity behind when I went to spy. I entered the General Forum through the fluffy turtle pit, and they completely ignored me. So get rid of your sanity and we'll have a clear path to attack the humans," the wererat said.

Jumpin' Salmon watched the wererat scurry about through the scope of the sniper rifle. He was too far away to hear what the wererat was saying, but he knew it couldn't be good. He fired. The wererat went down.

Unfortunately, he was too late. The rats discarded their sanity en masse. The fluffy turtles went after the sanity instead of the rats. The rats charged.

"No, what are you doing!? Get the rats! The rats!" the Almighty Do-er of Stuff yelled.

Several giant rats leapt on him. Lenar put away the last of his reaperdisks and drew his scythe. Lenar and the Silent Assassin killed the rats, but it was too late. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was already dead.

"Hooray! More rats!" Andraste clubbed rats left and right.

Arancaytar stabbed a rat. "We might have just lost our opportunity to go, Schrodinger."

"No, wait," Slartucker said, "BOVINE THUD!!!"

An enormous cave cow fell from out of nowhere and landed with a crash in the middle of the rat army, crushing several rats. The rats, Spiderwebbers, and fluffy turtles were all knocked to the ground. The cave cow mysteriously vanished.

Schrodinger got to his feet. "Hurry!"

Schrodinger, Arancaytar, Nikki, Archmagus Micael, Thuryl, Rakshasi, Student of Trinity, JadeWolf, the Lurker, and Dikiyoba ran along the edge of the forum, the area where most of the rats had thrown their sanity and so were avoiding, towards the Avernum 4 Forum. A few rats tried to stop them, but Jumpin' Salmon sniped them.

Tyranicus got to his feet just in time to see them make it safely to the Avernum 4 Forum. "All right, Slarty!"

Randomizer, Synergy, and Riibu entered.

"Where's Schrodinger?" Synergy asked.

"He just left. Why?" Marlenny asked.

"Oh no. He has the wrong directions!" Randomizer said. He cast spray acid on a rat that got too close.

"We'll have to catch up to them somehow," Synergy said.

"Slartucker, do your bovine thud again," Lazarus said.

"I can't. I can only cast it once per day," Slartucker said.

"We'll just have to be stealthy again, then," Synergy said.

Randomizer cast haste on himself and Synergy. They snuck around the rats towards the Avernum 4 Forum.

---

As Ephesos and Alorael entered the Tech Support Forum, Alorael suddenly fainted.

"That's definitely not a good sign." Ephesos set Alorael on a bed and placed the curing potion on the table beside it.

Filth Finder poked his head out of the shadows. "What's the matter with him?"

Ephesos turned towards Filth Finder angrily. "This is your fault. The mung rats got their filth and disease from your nest. If you hadn't..." Ephesos was interrupted by a coughing attack. It finally subsided. "If you hadn't..." Ephesos suddenly passed out.

Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer rushed over.

"What do we do?" Garbage Gatherer asked.

A cricket crawled out of Ephesos's pocket. "Chirrup!"

"Okay." Garbage Gatherer and Filth Finder carefully lifted Ephesos onto a bed and poured the curing potion down his throat.

"Chirrup!"

"Where is Stareye?" Filth Finder asked.

"Chirrup!"

"But how can I get in there? I'm not a moderator."

"Chirrup!"

"Yes, I know this is important. I'm going, I'm going." Filth Finder scurried off.

---

Drakefyre, Zeviz, Smoo, Garrison, and Nemesis sat around a dying flamefest in the Miscellaneous Forum. Nemesis and Garrison sat on opposite sides of the flamefest and glared at each other while Smoo and Zeviz finished recounting their tales to Drakefyre.

"I can't believe you were working with Emperor Tullegolar this whole time," Garrison said finally.

"Me? What about you?"

"I joined ET because it was the only way to find out what he was up to so I could stop him."

"It didn't work so well, did it?"

"I managed to hide the book he needs to translate the panel, but it will only slow him down. I just wish there was some way to stop him."

"I... I might have a way. Maybe."

"You mean you weren't working with ET?" Garrison said.

"Of course not!" said Nemesis.

"How could you stop Tullegolar anyway?"

"Remember how my sword continued to fight after I was dead?"

"Yeah."

"I might be able to do the same thing with Tullegolar."

---

Emperor Tullegolar stared at Stareye. "Do I kill him now or keep him alive so I can laugh at him as I destroy the oldbies and usher in a new order? Decisions, decisions."

Behind him, the crossbow slowly rolled across the floor until it reached the bolts. One bolt detached itself from the group and loaded itself onto the crossbow.

Filth Finder arrived in the Announcements Forum and began hammering on the door. "Stareye! Stareye!"

Emperor Tullegolar moved to his hiding spot beside the door and carefully eased it open.

Filth Finder rushed in. "Stareye, it's..."

Wham! Emperor Tullegolar was aiming for a human head instead of a GIFTR. The handle swung over Filth Finder and struck the ground instead.

Filth Finder wrapped two of his legs around the handle. "Hey!"

Emperor Tullegolar tried to shake Filth Finder off. "Let go, you insolent creature!"

Filth Finder held on as tightly as he could. "No!"

Nemesis's crossbow rose into the air and pointed at Emperor Tullegolar. It fired and the bolt buried itself in Emperor Tullegolar's back.

"Wha...?" Emperor Tullegolar let go of the slith spear and died. The crossbow fell back to the floor. Filth Finder let go of the spear as well and nudged Stareye.

Stareye opened his eyes and rubbed the back of his head. "What happened?"

Chapter 30: The Pied Piper of Ermarian

Chapter 30: The Pied Piper of Ermarian Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 21:09
The two red rats--the one from the Nethergate Forum and the one from the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum--reached the entrance to the cave at the same time. A large crowd of recently summoned rats milled just outside the entrance of the cave, waiting to reinforce the rats in the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

"Where are you going?" one asked.

"To see Beater of Mazes. I have important news!"

"So do I. Come on."

The red rats dashed down the passage to Attorosi's cave, but it wasn't there. They traveled down another passage, occasionally passing a newly summoned rat. They stepped into the cave containing the summoning machine. Several giant rats were busy explaining the situation to the rats that continuously popped out of the summoning machine.

"What do you want?" one of the giant rats asked.

"Is Beater of Mazes here?" one of the red rats asked.

"No, down there." The giant rat pointed to a narrow, twisting passage at the other end of the cave.

"Thanks." The red rats sprinted into the passage. Then they slowed to a nervous walk, for they were completely alone in the passage. There was enough magic in the air to make their fur stand on end.

"What do you think is happening down here?"

"I don't know."

"Halt!" A white rat blocked their path. "Where do you think you're going?"

"We need to see Beater of Mazes."

"It is busy and cannot be disturbed."

"But this is important!"

"Excuse me." A white rat carrying a container of essence from the Geneforge Series Forum pushed past the red rats and entered the cave where Attorosi and several other white rats were working.

"Excellent." Attorosi took the essence from the rat and poured it into a vat, also stolen from the Geneforge Series Forum.

"There's also some red rats out there. I think they want to see you," the white rat said.

"Bring them in," Attorosi said.

"Bring them in? But... but you said..."

"I know what I said. I said bring them in," Attorosi said.

The two red rats entered and looked around. Equipment was scattered everywhere.

"What is all of this?" one of the rats asked.

"Equipment that we have stolen from the humans," Attorosi said.

"From the humans? What are you using it all for?"

"We are perfecting the race of rats," Attorosi said proudly.

"What do you mean?"

"Look at yourselves! You're incredibly quick and agile--the perfect spies and messengers. Before I began to develop new forms, we rats had nothing like you. And now that we have all this equipment from the humans, we'll be able to develop even better rats even faster."

"But... but... you're doing experiments on rats! That's what the humans do!"

"I know. It is regrettable but necessary. However, we ask for volunteers whenever we need a living rat and we treat them with respect and don't harm them in any way. That makes us far superior to the humans. Anyway, you needed to see me?"

"Oh, yes. We're having difficulty in the Geneforge 4 Forum, and we need you and the white rats there to help."

"Well, this will function on its own, so I don't need to be here watching it constantly," Attorosi said. He singled out several rats. "You four will remain here to watch over the experiment. The rest of us will go to the Geneforge 4 Forum."

"There's also a problem in the lower forums," the other red rat said.

"What is it?"

"There's water leaking in. I shut the door to the Richard White Games Forum, but it won't hold back the water for long."

"From where? How fast is it flooding?" Attorosi asked.

"I don't know," the red rat said.

"This must be a trick of the humans! Close all the doors. That will give us plenty of time to defeat the humans and then figure out to do with the water," Attorosi said.

The red rat scampered off to close the doors. Attorosi and the white rats joined the rat in front of the cave.

"Follow me! We will punish humanity for its crimes and turn this place into a haven of peace and security for rats everywhere!" Attorosi led the group of rats towards the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

---

Schrodinger, Arancaytar, Nikki, Archmagus Micael, Thuryl, the Lurker, Rakshasi, JadeWolf, and Student of Trinity made it to the Geneforge Series Forum without problems.

Student of Trinity caught sight of a white rat scooping more essence out of an essence pool. "Hey!" He slung a rock at it, knocking it out instantly.

Synergy and Randomizer joined the group.

"Good shot!" Synergy said.

"What are you two doing here?" Arancaytar asked.

"You don't have the right directions," Synergy said.

"What do you mean?" Schrodinger asked.

"Zeviz was a wererat. He gave you the wrong directions to the summoning machine," Randomizer said.

"But you know how to get there correctly?" Schrodinger said.

"Everybody hide!" Rakshasi said.

Everyone searched for a hiding spot.

"Why?" JadeWolf asked.

Thuryl pulled him down just in time. With Attorosi in the lead, the mob of white and newly summoned rats passed. When the rats were gone, they all stood up again.

"We'd better hurry. That's a lot of rats," the Lurker said, "It won't do any good to destroy the summoning machine if the rats kill everyone else."

"We have to get past the rats guarding the entrance to the Blades of Avernum Forum first." Randomizer pointed to the wandering rats.

Arancaytar pulled out the magic flute and began to play a simple melody. The rats stopped, mesmerized by the sound. Schrodinger walked carefully through the charmed rats and motioned for the others to follow.

"I have a better idea," Thuryl said, "Kill them!"

The deed was quickly accomplished. Arancaytar stopped playing and they continued into the Blades of Avernum Forum.

"That felt wrong somehow," Archmagus Micael said.

"Why? Now we don't have to worry about them sneaking up on us," Thuryl said.

Randomizer and Synergy quickly located the cave and led everyone as close as they could get without being seen by the guards.

"There are lots of rats right at the entrance, so be careful," Randomizer said.

Arancaytar started playing the flute again. Schrodinger poked his head into the cave. All the blue rats were asleep. "It's safe," he whispered.

Once the Spiderwebbers had dealt with the guards, they continued exploring the cave. Arancaytar was up front, guarded by Randomizer and Synergy. Nikki kept as close to Arancaytar as he could. Thuryl and Schrodinger were last.

Student of Trinity peaked into a larger cave. "Here it is!"

They crowded inside, killing the guards and the few new rats that had been summoned.

"Now all we have to do is figure out how to destroy it," Schrodinger said.

Chapter 31: Where's the Deranged Subterfuge?

Chapter 31: Where's the Deranged Subterfuge? Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 21:32
Stareye looked at Drakefyre's body and the mess that was currently the Moderator Board. "Okay, Filth Finder, so Ephesos is comatose, Zeviz is dead, and all known copies of Galactic Core have been destroyed?"

Filth Finder nodded.

Stareye sighed. Then he kicked Emperor Tullegolar's body for good measure. The mechanical pencil fell out of his pocket.

"Wait! The wererat said he couldn't find the third copy of Galactic Core," said Filth Finder.

"Of course! Zephyr Tempest must have it." Stareye rushed out, accidentally kicking the pencil into the Announcements Forum. He entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. "Zephyr! Zephyr!"

"Icy rain!" Ice pellets struck all the rats crowding around Zephyr Tempest. "Coming, Stareye. Ice lances!" Zephyr Tempest approached Stareye. "What is it?"

"Do you still have a copy of Galactic Core?"

"Oh, yes." Zephyr Tempest pulled it out.

"Good. Go revive Drakefyre, and Zeviz as well. Whatever you do, don't revive Emperor Tullegolar," Stareye said.

"Right." Zephyr Tempest ran off.

---

Dikiyoba searched for graymold in the Avernum 4 Forum. It was so dark that finding it was more a matter of chance than skill. Dikiyoba had collected several pieces when Dikiyoba heard squeaking and shrank against a wall. Attorosi and the other rats passed through the forum and entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. "Dikiyoba does not like the odds of getting back in one piece."

---

A curse ray knocked Dintiradan's helmet off. He threw his arms over his face. "Argh! Nobody look!" He scrambled after it. Lenar held off the rats while the Silent Assassin set Dintiradan's helmet back on his head. Dintiradan whacked a rat with Homeland. "Why can't you two be part of my Legion of Terror?"

The Silent Assassin gestured something.

"Sorry, he said the only deranged subterfuge we do is our own," Lenar said.

Wanderer joined the three of them. He stabbed a blue rat. "Take that!"

Dintiradan slammed Homeland into another rat's skull.

"Nice job, but I'm getting twice as many!" Andraste called. She clubbed two more rats.

Fatman sat on the edge of the fountain.

Jumpin' Salmon fired again. "Why aren't you helping any?"

"I'm badly wounded. See?" Fatman pointed his scratch out.

"Oh, for crying out loud. Here." Slartucker threw a bag of beef jerky at him. "Eat some and you'll feel better."

"Never mind, I'm not as injured as I thought." Fatman slunk off.

---

Dikiyoba had enough graymold for several graymold salves. Dikiyoba entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum with a dagger in one hand and the invulnerability potion in the other.

Attorosi and the white rats were busy hasting blue rats and blessing red rats. Dikiyoba attempted to go around them but suddenly broke into a coughing fit.

"Hey! You! Human!" The rats heard Dikiyoba.

Dikiyoba gulped the invulnerability potion and ran. "Someone help Dikiyoba!"

Kingy joined Jumpin' Salmon at the fountain and shot at the rats chasing Dikiyoba. Between the two of them and the invulnerability, Dikiyoba managed to get through.

Dikiyoba coughed again. "Thanks." Dikiyoba entered the Tech Support Forum.

"Idiots!" Attorosi squeaked.

"Our claws and teeth kept bouncing off!" a giant rat said.

"Um, do you think we have enough rats hasted and blessed?" a white rat asked.

"Yes. Go for it," Attorosi said.

The red and blue rats charged towards the Spiderwebbers. Although the blue rats were hasted, they couldn't keep up with the red rats.

"Look out for the red rats!" Thralni said.

"Come on, they're red rats. They couldn't possibly... arghh!" Alec went down under a mass of buffed red rats.

Thralni fired off as many arrows as he could. "Help!" A red rat tore into his arm.

Jewels came to his aid.

"Oh, all right. You would have healed me, I know you would." Fatman joined them.

The Stew Boy grabbed Thralni and carried him to Nioca. Nioca healed him.

"Thanks, Nioca. May the chicken gods bless you."

"Er, what?" Nioca asked.

Thralni shrugged. "Oh, never mind." He ran off to rejoin the battle.

The Stew Boy stopped to pick up the mechanical pencil.

"Be careful with that," Nioca said, "If that's what I think it is, it's poisoned."

"Oh. Okay," the Stew Boy said.

A mung rat managed to bite Lenar. "Ow!"

The Silent Assassin stabbed the rat, picked Lenar up, and carried him over to Nioca.

Nioca cast a healing spell. "Was that a mung rat bite or another rat bite?"

Lenar coughed a few times. "Mung."

"Go to the Tech Support Forum. We're trying to contain the disease as much as possible," Nioca said.

The Silent Assassin helped Lenar into the Tech Support Forum and into a bed. Alorael and Ephesos were still unconscious. Dikiyoba was halfway through making a batch of graymold salve. Dikiyoba turned away from the mix and began to cough.

"That doesn't sound good." Lenar coughed several times.

"Yes, but Dikiyoba is almost... almost..." Dikiyoba fainted. The Silent Assassin set Dikiyoba on a bed as well.

Lenar looked around. "It looks like I'm the only one. Maybe I can..." Lenar tried to stand up but the Silent Assassin pushed him back down. Then the Silent Assassin pointed to himself. "You? I think not. You'll blow up the entire forum. Remember what happened to the cat the last time you messed around with alchemy?" Lenar broke off in a coughing fit.

The Silent Assassin took this opportunity to pour the crushed graymold into a beaker and place the beaker on a burner. He added a few more ingredients. Lenar closed his eyes and waited for the explosion as the potion boiled. The Silent Assassin pulled the salve off the burner and handed it to Lenar.

Lenar pushed it away. "No, the others need it more than I do. Give it to Alorael, otherwise I don't think he'll live much longer." Lenar coughed again. "That way if the potion kills him, well, no harm done."

The Silent Assassin carefully gave Alorael the potion and began to mix up another.

Lenar laid back and closed his eyes again. "The first one was a fluke. This time he's going to blow everything up."

The Silent Assassin completed the salve and gave it to Ephesos just as Alorael woke up. He coughed feebly a few times but looked to be in much better condition.

"All right, what's going on? Where's my sniper rifle?"

"You were sick, so Salmon took it." Lenar coughed again. The Silent Assassin pushed the third dose of graymold salve into his hands.

"What? He has my sniper rifle? I think not!" Alorael jumped up and rushed off.

Ephesos began to stir and opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the Silent Assassin standing over him. "Gaahhh! Repel sp... oh, it's just you. Don't ever do that again."

The Silent Assassin gave the final graymold salve to Dikiyoba. After a moment, Dikiyoba woke up.

"I... I almost don't believe it," Lenar said, "You don't just engage in carefully planned wanton destruction after all."

The Silent Assassin smiled.

"I guess I'm going to have to stop trapping you in the laundry room after this. Er, I mean I'm going to have to tell the cat to stop trapping you in the laundry room."

The Silent Assassin glared at Lenar.

---

Zephyr Tempest stood in front of the Periodic Table of Elements. "Let's see now... Drakey has nitrogen." Zephyr Tempest summoned some nitrogen and combined it with Galactic Core. Drakefyre was revived. He rushed out of the forum without a word. Next, Zephyr Tempest summoned some hafnium and revived Zeviz. They followed Drakefyre, leaving Zorro alone. He slammed Ocean Bound on the table angrily.

"Every time! I just don't understand this game. Why do I keep losing population?"

---

Riibu hung back from the battle. She realized too late that Khoth was alone and surrounded by rats. He went down.

"Khoth!" Riibu ran recklessly towards him. The rats managed to surround her as well. Riibu drew her dagger. "Get back!"

A rat snapped at her but she disappeared. The rat halted in surprise. "What?"

Riibu, now invisible, stabbed it. The other rats tried to claw her but couldn't ever figure out where she was. Finally, she stabbed so many that they retreated.

Niemand was surrounded by rats as well. He hacked at them with his Jade Halberd, but eventually a blue rat buried its claws in his chest. Niemand died.

Tyranicus and Lazarus were forced to retreat until their backs were against the fountain.

"They'd better shut down that machinery soon, or we're all doomed," Tyranicus said, "We're already losing. Look out!" Tyranicus hurled himself out of the way as a firebolt struck the fountain, blasting a huge chunk out of it. Kingy was knocked from his perch but jumped up in time to fire at the white rat before it could cast again.

"Lazarus, are you okay?" Tyranicus asked, "Behind you!"

Lazarus, Tyranicus, and Kingy were attacked by a mob of red rats. Jumpin' Salmon pulled Tyranicus up onto the fountain. Tyranicus pulled Lazarus onto the fountain as well but Kingy was killed by the rats. One of the rats grabbed the bow and ran away with it.

Chapter 32: The Power Of The Mechanical Pencil

Chapter 32: The Power Of The Mechanical Pencil Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:05
The water pressure in the Richard White Games Forum finally became too great. The water blasted the door down and flooded into the Nethergate Forum.

---

Alorael entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum and approached the fountain. "Mine." He grabbed the sniper rifle from Jumpin' Salmon, pushed him over, chugged a bottle of skribbane, and began sniping.

Drakefyre, Zephyr Tempest, Zeviz, Ephesos, Lenar, the Silent Assassin, and Dikiyoba arrived shortly afterwards. The resulting barrage of fire, ice, and other spells drove the rats back temporarily.

"What are you doing? Attack! Kill!" Attorosi sent a bolt of fire at Tyranicus.

"Frack!" Tyranicus was incinerated.

Stareye crushed a red rat under his boot. "If we could kill Attorosi, that might dishearten the rats enough for them to call off the attack."

"And then what?" Drakefyre asked.

"I don't know. Alorael, snipe Attorosi!" Stareye said.

Unfortunately, Attorosi heard the command. It dodged the bullet and ran for safety. "Get him! Kill the sniper!"

Several green rats hit Alorael with their curse rays. The sniper rifle was knocked from Alorael's hands. He scrambled to pick it up again but he was hit by a bolt of fire from a white rat before he could do so.

Meanwhile, MagmaDragoon and Andraste found themselves cut off from everyone else.

"What do we do?" MagmaDragoon asked as a curse ray bounced off his armor and hit the very rat that cast it.

Andraste quickly clubbed it and a giant rat that was sneaking up on MagmaDragoon. "Just keep whacking away at them. Ahhh!" A red rat knocked her to the ground and a blue rat bit her before she could recover.

MagmaDragoon killed the blue rat. "Are you okay?"

"N... no. Help," Andraste gasped.

"Stew Boy! Someone help!" MagmaDragoon called.

The Stew Boy already had Thralni slung over his shoulder. "I'll be there in a moment!" The Stew Boy left Thralni at Nioca's feet and ran back for Andraste.

"Back again?" Nioca asked.

"Yeah. A blue rat this time. I guess I'm a bit slow," Thralni said.

Nioca cast a healing spell. "Well, there you go."

"Thanks again," Thralni said.

MagmaDragoon swung at a rat and missed. He stumbled in his heavy armor. A blue rat jumped on him and tried to claw him, but the armor deflected its strikes. Andraste managed to kick it. The blue rat turned on her. Delicious Vlish cast terror on it and slapped a few rats with his tentacles.

"This creature isn't a human," one of the rats said.

"Yes, but it's clearly with them. Kill him!"

Delicious Vlish was hit by a bolt of fire spell and collapsed on the ground.

MagmaDragoon got up as the Stew Boy arrived.

"I'll help Vlish, you take Andraste," the Stew Boy said.

MagmaDragoon picked Andraste up and ran off, but several rats blocked the Stew Boy and Delicious Vlish's escape.

"That creature knows a terror spell. I think Attorosi is looking for mental abilities," a giant rat whispered to a white rat.

The Stew Boy looked nervously at all the rats surrounding him. "I... I..."

"Surrender and we'll let you live," the white rat said.

"I... I..." The Stew Boy continued to look around in panic. He saw Wanderer brought down by the rats and everyone else being pushed further away by the rat horde. A wererat assumed Alorael's form and climbed onto the fountain with the sniper rifle.

"Oh no you don't!" Jumpin' Salmon dashed forward and yanked it out of the wererat's hands. "Alorael said explicitly that I should be the only one to have the sniper rifle if something should happen to him. Yeah. Something like that anyway." Jumpin' Salmon shot the wererat and ran off.

"Udder destruction!" Slartucker yelled. The rats around him were destroyed.

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!" Ephesos blasted several rats while Nioca healed Andraste. Andraste grabbed her clubs and dashed back out into the fray.

Two giant rats now held the Heartstriker Bow. They struggled to aim it.

"This would be easier if we had thumbs!"

"At least we don't have to worry about loading it as well."

Finally, they had it in position.

"Ready?"

"Ready!"

"DIVINE... argh!" The arrow struck Ephesos, killing him instantly.

"We're being surrounded. Retreat to the Announcements Forum. Retreat!" Drakefyre said. Those that could turned and ran to the Announcements Forum. Jumpin' Salmon paused and fired a parting shot, enabling Marlenny and Kelandon to escape, before he exited as well.

"I... I..." The Stew Boy still hesitated.

"Don't you dare!" Delicious Vlish flailed ineffectively at the rats.

The Stew Boy hung his head. "We surrender."

"No! Fight! Fight!" Delicious Vlish managed to knock the first two rats to approach him away. The third knocked him unconscious with a rock that had probably been launched from Student of Trinity's sling at some point in time.

"A wise choice. Come on," The white rat led the Stew Boy over to Attorosi.

The Stew Boy was forced to kneel in front of Attorosi.

"What's this?" Attorosi demanded as the rats set Delicious Vlish on the ground.

"This creature can cast terror. We offered the human a chance to surrender so that we could capture this creature. As you can see, he accepted," the white rat said.

"So, human, you will answer all of my questions, correct?" Attorosi said.

"I... I..."

"That's pretty much all he says," a blue rat sneered.

"Answer my questions if you want to live! What is the name of this creature?" Attorosi squeaked.

Delicious Vlish regained consciousness but remained still. Do it, he projected to the Stew Boy.

"What! Er, yes. Yes. That creature, as you call him, is Delicious Vlish. He's, well, an edible vlish." The Stew Boy reached into his pocket for the poisoned mechanical pencil.

"And exactly what is a vlish?"

Come on, kill it, Delicious Vlish repeated, Do it to protect these boards!

"I will!" The Stew Boy lunged at Attorosi.

"Look out!" A white rat leapt in front of Attorosi and took the pencil thrust. The rest of the rats knocked the Stew Boy flat. The pencil fell from his hand.

Attorosi laughed. "You thought you could kill me? Look at my rat horde, ready to kill and die for me. Did you honestly think..."

Delicious Vlish scooted along the ground and wrapped his tentacles around Attorosi.

"Ahhh! Get him off! Get him off!" Attorosi screamed.

The rats forgot about the Stew Boy and tore Delicious Vlish apart. The Stew Boy jumped up, grabbed the mechanical pencil, and drove it into Attorosi's heart.

"Nooo!" Attorosi tried to claw it out but promptly died. All the rats halted, confused.

"I did it! I did it!" The Stew Boy suddenly realized he was still surrounded by rats and ran screaming for the Announcements Forum.

Chapter 33: Perfection

Chapter 33: Perfection Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:08
The four white rats heard a scratching sound from inside the vat. They popped the lid open and a rat climbed out. It was larger than the white rats, with pink eyes and fur so white it seemed to glow.

"What do we call it?" one of the white rats asked.

"Well, we can't identify it by color."

"I know! We'll call it a perfected rat!"

"Who are you?" the perfected rat snarled.

"We work for Order from Chaos. It created you."

The perfected rat spat on the ground. "Pfft. With a name like that, I must be better than it is."

The white rats looked at each other nervously and didn't speak.

Strains of Arancaytar's music reached their ears. The white rats relaxed. The perfected rat just seemed irritated.

"What is that? Hey, you aren't going to let a simple trick like that fool you, are you?" The perfected rat slapped one of the white rats.

"Hey!" it said, rubbing its injured nose.

"Wake up, idiots. There's something funny going on." The perfected rat slapped another white rat.

"Ow!"

--

Arancaytar continued to play the flute. Thuryl, JadeWolf, and Rakshasi alternately struck at the summoning machine with their weapons, but the energy shield blocked their blows completely. Student of Trinity slung the newly summoned rats. Everyone else watched nervously for rats. Finally, the energy shield flickered.

"Now we're getting somewhere." Rakshasi struck at the summoning machine again. The energy shield blocked his blow and then disappeared entirely.

Meanwhile, a tiny spider descended from the ceiling and landed on Arancaytar's hand. The moment he felt it touch him, he dropped the flute and panicked. "Ahhhhhh! Get it off! Get it off!" Arancaytar managed to knock it off his hand and stumbled away from it.

Student of Trinity squished it. "It's just a spider. Now pick up the flute, hurry."

As Arancaytar took a step towards the flute, a massive firebolt struck him, killing him instantly. The perfected rat and four white rats stood at the tunnel entrance.

"Aran!" Nikki yelled.

"Intruders! Kill them!" The perfected rat crushed the magic flute underpaw.

Nikki threw one of the madness gems at the rats. The four white rats froze, dazed and confused, but the perfected rat was unaffected. It launched a second fireball at Nikki before anyone else could respond. Nikki was blasted out of existence.

"Keep working!" Thuryl abandoned the summoning machine, stabbed a white rat, ducked a third fireball, and faced the white rat.

JadeWolf and Rakshasi hacked at the summoning machine where Rats Aplenty was stuck into the machine. Soon, they had a panel torn loose. Rakshasi pried it off of the machine while JadeWolf tried to pull the scenario out.

Synergy shot one of the white rats. Randomizer cast spray acid on another. Student of Trinity's rock killed the final one. About a dozen rats that had been in the caves joined the battle. Student of Trinity slung a rock at a mung rat. Randomizer cast spray acid at a blue rat. The Lurker stabbed a giant rat. Archmagus Micael cast slow on the perfected rat.

"Haste!" The perfected rat sped itself up, knocked Thuryl aside, and cast another firebolt. It hit JadeWolf.

"I need help!" Rakshasi said as a new rat was summoned.

The Lurker quickly killed the rat and Schrodinger yanked the scenario out of the machine and smashed it on the ground. The machine buzzed loudly and ground to a halt.

Thuryl got back to his feet and swung at the perfected rat. The perfected rat sent the sword flying and clawed him viciously. Thuryl sank to the ground, dead. Randomizer cast spray acid and Synergy fired a submission thorn at it. The perfected rat squeaked in pain and cast a firebolt at Synergy. Synergy dodged it just in time.

"Ow!" Student of Trinity was hit by a curse ray and bitten by a mung rat. Rakshasi stabbed the mung rat and helped him back to his feet. Randomizer cast spray acid on the green rat. Synergy shot the perfected rat a second time.

The perfected rat ran from the cave. The rest of the rats followed.

"Come on! We're not going to let them get away, are we?" Randomizer ran after the rats. "Spray acid! Spray acid! Ahhhh!"

Realizing that Randomizer was the only one after it, the perfected rat stopped and cast another fireball at him. Randomizer died.

Student of Trinity began to cough.

"Are you all right?" Schrodinger asked as he picked up the remaining madness gem.

"It's not too bad yet," Student of Trinity said, "Let's get back to everyone else before it gets any worse, though."

"That really powerful rat is probably hiding in the tunnels somewhere, preparing to ambush us, so be careful," Synergy said, "Rakshasi, you go first."

"Me? Why me?"

"Because you can't be harmed by the rat's magic." Synergy reloaded his baton.

Sure enough, the moment Rakshasi stepped out of the cave, he was hit by a fireball. Synergy quickly fired another thorn at the perfected rat and Archmagus Micael hit it with a fireball. The perfected rat glowed white for a moment. When the glow disappeared, it was completely healed.

"We're in trouble," Schrodinger said.

Student of Trinity coughed again. "I'll hold it off while you escape. I would only slow you down, anyway. There must be another passage that takes you out of here somewhere." Student of Trinity whirled his sling and brained the rat with an unusually large rock.

Schrodinger, Synergy, the Lurker, Archmagus Micael, and Rakshasi fled deeper into the tunnels. Schrodinger stumbled into a secret passage. They followed it until it led them outside the cave. Archmagus Micael cast haste on them all, and they ran to the Geneforge Series Forum.

Meanwhile, Student of Trinity hit the perfected rat with a rock for a second time. The perfected rat cast a firebolt. Student of Trinity dodged it. He started coughing again, allowing the perfected rat to cast another firebolt and take him out easily. The perfected rat scurried out of the cave and sprinted towards the Geneforge Series Forum, hoping to beat Schrodinger, Synergy, the Lurker, Archmagus Micael, and Rakshasi there.

Schrodinger glanced back. "It's gaining on us, hurry!"

Chapter 34: The Third Faction

Chapter 34: The Third Faction Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:09
Everyone in the Announcements Forum waited nervously for the rats to show up.

"What do you think they're waiting for?" Frozen Feet asked.

"I don't know," Riibu said.

Zephyr Tempest and Zeviz were arguing with each other.

"You should stay in General," Zephyr Tempest said.

"No way. I tried that last time. I'll take my chances out here, thank you. You go to General and start reviving people. You know how to use Galactic Core, anyway."

"But... oh, fine." Zephyr Tempest left.

The Stew Boy burst into the forum and nearly collapsed. He was breathing heavily. "Delicious Vlish and I... we... we managed to... to kill... Attorosi."

"Really?" Stareye asked.

The Stew Boy nodded.

"In that case, I'll see if I can get them to surrender," Stareye said.

Stareye entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. The rats were all milling about at the far end of it while the fluffy turtle slept off their massive meal in another corner.

Stareye poked his head back into the Announcements Forum.

"Saunders, do you think you could lead the fluffy turtles back into the fluffy turtle pit."

"I could try."

While Saunders coaxed the fluffy turtles out of the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum, Stareye walked close enough to the rats to hear what they were saying.

"What do we do now?"

"We can still defeat the humans without Test Subject No More."

"No, we should just leave."

"What, and let the humans live?"

"Um, hello. We can't leave. The humans are blocking the only way out."

"Maybe if we tell them we just want to leave..."

Two of the original guards of Smoo stood over the fallen body of their companion. It had been killed by a blast of ice.

"We are tainted," one of them said.

"What do you mean?

"Look around. We are supposed to be punishing humans for our evil ways, yet Attorosi..."

The other rat gasped. "You said Attorosi!"

"It's dead now. It doesn't need fancy titles. Anyway, Attorosi used its magic to create red rats that are too fast but too weak and blue rats that are too strong but too slow and white rats that use more magic and let the mung rats get too smelly and diseased to be around the rest of us and... and... and we should be infesting cellars and killing cats, not dying on some message board!"

A red rat that had been listening in spoke up. "And you haven't even seen what Attorosi had in the back cave."

"What? What?" the giant rat asked.

The red rat shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't seen it either."

Stareye was about to offer a chance for the rats to surrender when Schrodinger, Rakshasi, the Lurker, Synergy, and Archmagus Micael entered.

"Rat right behind us!" Archmagus Micael said.

"What's so dangerous about a... oh." Stareye saw the perfected rat enter.

"What are you doing, rats? Kill them!" it squeaked furiously.

Schrodinger tossed the madness gem into the rats. The six Spiderwebbers ran for the Announcements Forum in the confusion.

The perfected rat snatched up the Heartstriker Bow, rose onto its hind legs, aimed at Synergy, and fired. Synergy went down. The others made it safely to the Announcements Forum.

The perfected rat waited until the effects of the gem wore off. "Come on, what are you waiting for? Get in there and kill them!"

"Hold up!" one of the rats squeaked.

"Yes?"

"You, um, need to leave your sanity here, or the fluffy turtles will attack you."

The perfected rat looked amused. "I fear nothing. I can be brought down by nothing. But I will leave my sanity here if it will reassure you." The perfected rat placed its sanity on the ground. "Now attack!"

---

"Is this everyone that's left alive?" Drakefyre said.

Schrodinger nodded. "We broke the summoning machine and killed almost all of the rats in the Blades of Avernum Forum."

"I hope you didn't do any unnecessary damage to the summoning machine. I might still want that army of kumquats!" Dintiradan said.

Everyone ignored him and Schrodinger continued, "But we ran into a... a perfected rat. It's incredibly powerful. Killing it is going to be tough. Urgh." Schrodinger went down with an arrow in his back. The perfected rat raised the bow for another shot as the rats swarmed in.

---

The three rats remained the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

"So, uh, what do we do now?" the red rat asked.

"We could try to recruit new members," one of the giant rats said.

"We could, but that would be dangerous and probably get us all killed. We should just stay here and let them kill each other."

"What? Why?"

"It takes care of all the experimenting, doesn't it? Nobody can experiment once they're all dead. And we'll be left with a clean slate. We can bring in rats and humans who understand afterwards and create rules to make sure nothing like this happens ever again."

Chapter 35: Emperor Tullegolar Strikes Back

Chapter 35: Emperor Tullegolar Strikes Back Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:14
The perfected rat was bringing down Spiderwebbers left and right. First it shot Slartucker. Then it shot Lenar. The Silent Assassin lunged forward furiously, but was shot a moment later.

Drakefyre cast divine warrior and started hacking his way through the rats towards it. Meanwhile, MagmaDragoon barreled his way through the rats and knocked the bow out of the perfected rat's paws. The perfected rat retaliated by clawing through MagmaDragoon's armor in a single blow, killing him.

---

Saunders led the fluffy turtles back into the fluffy turtle pit and left.

Zephyr Tempest sat watching Zorro play Ocean Bound. "Hmm. Maybe I should revive some people. But who? I know--I'll revive Ephesos, so he can help revive more people. I'm pretty sure he had copper." Zephyr Tempest summoned some copper and combined it with Galactic Core.

Emperor Tullegolar was revived.

"But... but I was sure that Ephesos had copper!" Zephyr Tempest said.

"He did... until I crossed his name off the chart and put mine on instead."

"Why?"

"Because I knew that I was likely to get killed eventually and once that happened, I wouldn't be revived anytime soon. But I also knew that Ephesos was likely to get killed sooner or later and the only way to revive him was through the chart. So I took the liberty of replacing my name with his. Now, how is everyone doing against the rats?"

"Um... not so good," Zephyr Tempest said.

"What? You're losing to a bunch of rats! This is ridiculous! I could probably beat their leader without a weapon and blindfolded. But I won't. Instead, I'll challenge it, and you'll blast it with a spell as soon as it accepts."

"I don't think that will work, Tullegolar."

"Nonsense. Of course it will. Come on."

Zephyr Tempest set Galactic Core on the table and followed Emperor Tullegolar. Zorro shook his head has he lost yet another game of Ocean Bound.

---

Dintiradan stood at the back of the forum, well away from the perfected rat. He whacked a red rat with Homeland. "I have an idea!" Dintiradan looked around. "And no one to implement it for me. How sad is it that I am an Evil Overlord with no Legion of Terror?"

Nioca cast smite. "What is it, Dinti?"

"The Deth Ray, of course. That'll take out the perfected rat. Come help me set it up."

Dintiradan and Nioca entered the Tech Support Forum and pulled out the box containing the parts of the Deth Ray and began assembling it.

Emperor Tullegolar ran through the forum with Zephyr Tempest trailing along behind.

"I wonder what he's up to?" Nioca said.

Dintiradan screwed two pieces together. "I don't know. Go find out."

Nioca entered the Announcements Forum and saw Emperor Tullegolar push through the surviving Spiderwebbers towards the rats. "Hold it, hold it!"

"Tullegolar! Why are you alive?" Drakefyre demanded.

"To put these rats back in their place like you haven't been able to. I won't call you all weak... but you are."

The battle stopped. The perfected rat stood over the body of Andraste. "What do you want, human?" it sneered.

"A concluding resolution that will bring about a new world order where the strong are in power and the weak are either dead or serving the strong, just as it should be. But I'll settle for reminding you and the rest of your weakling followers exactly why we humans are superior to you in every way, rat."

The rats squeaked in fury. However, many of the Spiderwebbers looked distinctly nervous.

"Are you sure we should be letting him talk?" Riibu asked.

"I have no idea." said the Stew Boy.

"You humans are worse than I thought. It is our duty to punish you for your crimes against nature," the perfected rat said.

"Weak! You know us humans are better than you are. Otherwise, why would you use magic and weapons? Those are human things. You use them because they are better than anything you have. They're better than anything you will ever have."

This time it was the rats' turn to look nervous.

"Then I will prove your 'superiority' by killing you!" The perfected rat charged towards Emperor Tullegolar.

Nioca returned to the Tech Support Forum. "Emperor Tullegolar and the perfected rat are fighting one-on-one."

Dintiradan sighed and shook his head. "It's obvious neither one of them has read the Evil Overlord Guidebook. Here, plug this in." Dintiradan handed Nioca the cord. "And then tell Stareye and Drakefyre to retreat if the rat wins."

---

As the perfected rat lunged toward Emperor Tullegolar, Zephyr Tempest cast an ice lances spell at it. The spell knocked the perfected rat down.

"Cheater!" The perfected rat leapt back up and cast a firebolt. It hit Zephyr Tempest.

Emperor Tullegolar attacked the perfected rat. The perfected rat rose onto its hind legs and grabbed the slith spear's handle. They glared at each other and attempted to pull the spear out of the other's hands.

Zeviz tapped Archmagus Micael on the shoulder.

"What?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"We should go revive people."

They stepped into the Tech Support Forum, passing Nioca on the way.

Nioca approached Drakefyre and Stareye. "Um, Dintiradan has the Deth Ray set up in the Tech Support Forum. He wants everyone to retreat if the perfected rat wins so that he can blast it," Nioca said.

"All right." Stareye began pulling Spiderwebbers back towards the Tech Support Forum.

Nioca returned to Tech Support Forum. "Are you sure this is going to work?"

"Positive." Dintiradan quickly aimed the Deth Ray at Nioca. "By the way, I think you should know I really hate being called Dinti." Dintiradan fired. Nioca was killed instantly.

---

Meanwhile, Archmagus Micael, Zeviz, and Zorro were in the process of reviving people.

The Silent Assassin mimed a tree and pointed to Galactic Core.

"The Silent Assassin demands to know why you haven't revived Ephesos yet," Lenar said.

"Because I haven't found his element yet." Archmagus Micael looked over the chart. "Oh. It's right here. Tullegolar crossed it off." Archmagus Micael crossed off Emperor Tullegolar's name, wrote in Ephesos's name, and gave dysprosium to Emperor Tullegolar.

Zorro combined tin with Galactic Core and revived Synergy.

"Revive Randomizer next," Synergy said.

Zorro picked up a chunk of copper. "I'm just reviving people from whatever elements I get."

Ephesos was revived. "Yay! I'm back!"

"Who's still dead, Ephesos?" Zeviz asked.

"Let's see... Arancaytar, Tyranicus, and Slartucker. And, um..."

"That's enough for now. What are their elements, Micael?"

---

Down in the Miscellaneous Forum, everyone waited to be revived.

"Do you think that means we've won?" Tyranicus asked.

"No way, not with that perfected rat," Slartucker said.

Nikki edged towards Arancaytar. "Let's sneak into the shadows. Maybe they'll forget about us and we can finally be alone together!"

Arancaytar backed away. "No way!" He disappeared in a flash of light.

Nikki sighed in disappointment.

"How long do you think it'll take us to be revived?" Nemesis asked.

"I don't know," Garrison said.

---

Emperor Tullegolar saw the Spiderwebbers begin to retreat. "Hey! You're not supposed to leave, you're supposed to attack the perfected rat with me!"

The perfected rat freed a paw and attempted to claw Emperor Tullegolar. Emperor Tullegolar let go of the slith spear and ducked away. He began searching for the mechanical pencil.

"It's gone! Where is it?"

The last of the Spiderwebbers left. The perfected rat tossed the slith spear aside and dropped to all fours. Emperor Tullegolar found the key to the Moderator Board. He ran for the Moderator Board, managed to unlock the door, step inside, and slam it shut.

"I'll take care of him, you kill the others!" the perfected rat said.

The remaining giant, mung, green, white, blue, and red rats charged into the Tech Support Forum. The perfected rat backed up and ran at the locked Moderator Board.

---

In the General Forum, Nioca, Nemesis and Garrison were the last to be revived.

"Where is everyone else?" Nemesis asked, seeing that he, Zorro, Zeviz, Archmagus Micael, Garrison, and Nioca, were the only ones present.

"They're in the Tech Support Forum. Let's join them," Archmagus Micael said.

"But what about Delicious Vlish? He's still down there," Nioca said.

"We don't have the time to create antihelium at the moment," Zeviz said.

They entered the Tech Support Forum and joined everyone else standing around the Deth Ray.

"We still need Zorro and a mage to stay back with Galactic Core," Drakefyre said.

"Randomizer hasn't done that yet," Zephyr Tempest said.

"But... I want to spray acid more rats!" Randomizer said.

Zorro grabbed Randomizer by the arm and dragged him into General. Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer emerged from the shadows and joined the Spiderwebbers. Alorael snatched his sniper rifle away from Jumpin' Salmon.

The rats entered and stopped short, disheartened by the reappearance of all the Spiderwebbers they thought were dead, two giant cockroaches, and a strange mechanical device.

---

Emperor Tullegolar grabbed Nemesis's crossbow and kicked the sword. "Come on, work on your own!" He retreated behind the Administrator Panel and loaded a bolt.

Wham! The perfected rat slammed into the door, knocking it down. Emperor Tullegolar fired the bolt and loaded another. The perfected rat pulled the bolt out and charged towards Emperor Tullegolar. Emperor Tullegolar fired another bolt. The perfected rat glowed white for a moment as it healed itself.

Emperor Tullegolar looked around. "Why isn't there a canister for aura of flames when you need one?" Emperor Tullegolar fired again.

The perfected rat knocked the crossbow out of his hands. It landed on the delete button of the Administrator Panel.

---

Suddenly, Imban vanished from existence. There was no obvious sign or cause. He was just gone.

"But... but how?" Marlenny stuttered.

"Everyone is doomed!" Nikki yelled.

"We are?" MagmaDragoon asked.

"What do you mean?" Garbage Gatherer asked.

The rats sensed the Spiderwebbers' nervousness and charged.

"Where's the perfected rat?" Dintiradan asked, "I can't use the Deth Ray on it if it's not here!"

A red rat darted over and unplugged it. The Deth Ray went dark. Dintiradan smashed it over the head with Homeland and ran over to plug it back in.

---

Emperor Tullegolar picked up the waveblade and slashed the perfected rat. The perfected rat clawed him and knocked him against the Administrator Panel. Emperor Tullegolar accidentally knocked a switch as he stood back up.

---

All the doors between forums swung open. The water rushed from the Nethergate Forum and into the Exile Trilogy Forum.

---

As the perfected rat raised its paw to claw Emperor Tullegolar again, Emperor Tullegolar drove the waveblade into its exposed chest. The perfected rat stumbled back, tearing the blade out of Emperor Tullegolar's hand.

"Ha!" Emperor Tullegolar said as it staggered about. "Now you see..."

The perfected rat cast a bolt of fire. Emperor Tullegolar fell behind the Administrator Panel and didn't get up again.

The perfected rat yanked the sword out and waited until it healed up. "Now what do you have to say, human?" It left.

Emperor Tullegolar waited a moment and then stood up. His robes were badly singed but he was otherwise unharmed. "You didn't really think that would kill me, did you?"

Chapter 36: Deletion

Chapter 36: Deletion Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:26
The perfected rat entered the Tech Support Forum. It clawed Enraged Slith, killing him.

Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer hurled themselves at a mung rat, hissing furiously. The mung rat had difficulty getting through their exoskeletons and its disease didn't affect them.

Dintiradan had his hands full trying to keep the rats from unplugging the Deth Ray or chewing through the cord. He smashed a red rat with Homeland. "Stupid outdated models. I need help, someone!" He hit another rat.

Wanderer stabbed a giant rat that was gnawing on the cord. The Lurker killed a blue rat that was sneaking up on Dintiradan.

"See, I knew you'd be back," Dintiradan said.

"No, I'm not," the Lurker said, "But if this Deth Ray is the only way to bring down the perfected rat, then I'll help you with whatever you need."

Dintiradan smashed another rat. "You and Wanderer keep the rats away from the cord. I'll aim the Deth Ray." Dintiradan fought his way through towards the Deth Ray.

Riibu sat invisibly in a corner with the nymphs.

"What are Mom and Dad and the rest doing?" Filth Filcher asked.

"They're fighting the rats," Riibu whispered.

"Because the rats are mean and scary?" asked Crud Collector.

"These ones are," Riibu said.

"Why aren't you fighting the rats as well?" Litter Locater asked.

"Because I... um, well... why aren't you?"

"The rats would eat us alive!" Rot Retriever said, "And that's not an exaggeration!"

"Exactly!" Riibu said.

"You look too big for the rats to swallow whole," Sewage Spotter said.

"I just mean that I'm not much of a fighter," Riibu said.

As Rakshasi battled the rats, his hands felt numb. He looked and saw that his fingers were slowly disappearing. "What's going on?" Rakshasi vanished.

Mysterious Man saw what happened. "Stareye, Drakefyre, Rakshasi's gone!"

"Gone? What do you mean gone?" Drakefyre demanded.

"He's been deleted, just like Imban," Mysterious Man said.

"I told you everyone was doomed!" Nikki threw down his weapon and ran screaming into the General Forum.

"Yes! I told you we would win! Fight harder, rats!" The perfected rat blasted Mysterious Man with a bolt of fire.

Alorael aimed his sniper rifle at the perfected rat. If he aimed just right, he should be able to kill the perfected rat in one shot. The only difficulty was that the perfected rat moved a lot faster than any pedestrian. If it would hold still for only a moment... Alorael didn't notice anything wrong until the moment he disappeared.

Jumpin' Salmon dove for the sniper rifle. "Mine again!"

The sniper rifle disappeared a moment later.

"Aw, shoot."

"Emperor Tullegolar and the perfected rat must have triggered something when they fought," Stareye said, "And since Imban was the first to go, everyone will go unless we can fix it."

"The perfected rat will be after us the moment we try and get to the Moderator Board," Drakefyre said.

Ash Lael disappeared.

Emperor Tullegolar burst into the forum with his slith spear in one hand and his flag in the other. "For the Concluding Resolution!" He drove the slith spear into the perfected rat and pressed the flag over the perfected rat's eyes. The perfected rat struggled to heal and free itself from the makeshift blindfold. It clawed Emperor Tullegolar a few times, but Emperor Tullegolar held on. Spiderwebbers attacked it from all sides.

"Get out of the way, I can't get a clear shot!" Dintiradan said.

Drakefyre and Stareye ran for the Moderator Board.

"Ooh! Ooh! Wait for me!" Jumpin' Salmon followed them.

The perfected rat freed itself from the flag and knocked Emperor Tullegolar aside. It killed Jewels.

Kelandon snatched up Enraged Slith's weapon and hurled the two-tined spear at the perfected rat's beady eye. The perfected rat gave one final, furious squeak and died.

Emperor Tullegolar coughed. "See? I told you all we weren't going to be beaten by a rat." Emperor Tullegolar died.

"And we didn't even need the Deth Ray," Nioca said.

The rats stopped attacking.

"Now what do we do?" one asked.

"Run!" said another.

The rats swarmed into the General Forum. One of them opened the door that led outside.

"No, don't do that!" Randomizer said.

Too late. A wave of water flooded in. Rats and spam were caught up in the deluge. Randomizer and Zorro sought safety on the stairs.

Nikki ran back into the Tech Support Forum. "Now we're all really doomed!" He disappeared.

The white rat started to glow again.

"Wha...?" Kelandon said.

The white rat stood back up, fully healed. It lashed out at Kelandon, sending him crashing into the Deth Ray. Kelandon was killed and the Deth Ray toppled over onto Dintiradan.

"Ow," Dintiradan said.

---

The red rat that Attorosi had sent to close all the doors entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" one of the giant rats asked.

"There's water flooding in! It's starting to flood into the Avernum Trilogy Forum. I closed all the doors, but they opened up again for some reason and I can't get them closed."

"Water flooding in from below? Then we need to find a boat," the other giant rat said. They scampered into the Geneforge Series Forum and began looking around.

---

Drakefyre and Stareye reached the Moderator Board.

"Sheesh, what a mess. No wonder you don't let normal members in. You guys are slobs!" Jumpin' Salmon said.

"Salmon, what are you doing here?" Stareye demanded.

"Oh, just, you know," Jumpin' Salmon said.

Drakefyre flipped a few switches. "It seems that, somehow, Imban was deleted. Everyone else disappearing must be a result of that." Drakefyre pushed a button. "Fixed, for now. Once the perfected rat is deleted, we'll bring everyone back."

"Yes, and upgrade security as well." Stareye glared at Jumpin' Salmon.

Jumpin Salmon relaxed in a chair. "Man, can you imagine how mad Alorael is going to be when he has to start over with zero posts? You'll have to give him a custom title just to shut him up."

Chapter 37: Bound, Unbound, and Ocean Bound

Chapter 37: Bound, Unbound, and Ocean Bound Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:27
Randomizer and Zorro retreated further up the stairs as the water continued to rise. Many rats climbed or hung onto anything that floated. Many more had drowned. Their bodies mixed with the spam and other floating debris.

"Disgusting," Randomizer said.

Zorro looked at Ocean Bound in bewilderment. "Do you think this was what Icshi meant when he told me to pick up Ocean Bound. Maybe winning a game will make it so this flood will have had never happened two days ago from the day after tomorrow?"

Randomizer thought for a moment. "You mean like right now?"

"You obviously don't understand the power of the White One."

"I have a better idea." Randomizer tossed the game into the water below. Ocean Bound immediately began sucking up water.

"But... why is that working?" Zorro demanded.

"I don't know," Randomizer said, "We'll get Synergy to rationalize it later."

---

The perfected rat faced the Spiderwebbers.

Ephesos looked angry. "An undead rat? No. Not okay. REPEL SPIRIT!!!"

Ephesos's spell didn't affect the rat.

"Not undead? In that case, DIVINE RETR..."

The perfected rat hurled a firebolt at Ephesos. Ephesos dove out of the way.

The Lurker and Wanderer hauled the Deth Ray off of Dintiradan. Nioca cast a healing spell on him.

"Help me set this thing back up," Dintiradan said.

The four of them set the Deth Ray back up. Dintiradan aimed at the perfected rat.

The perfected rat was about to claw Garrison when it was zapped by the Deth Ray. It was thrown against the wall and collapsed, its remains smoking gently. Slartucker and Thuryl caught a glimpse of metal. They looked at each other.

"Do you see that?" Thuryl asked.

"Yes," Slartucker said, "It must be some sort of machinery that held the perfected rat together."

"Ha!" Dintiradan said, "That took care of..."

The white rat began to glow again.

"What?!" Dintiradan said, "No way!"

"Er, keeping it together," Slartucker said.

"But is the machinery only inside of it or mostly elsewhere?" Thuryl asked.

"It has to be elsewhere," Slartucker said, "It takes an enormous amount of power to heal itself after taking so much damage."

"Then it must be back in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Come on," Thuryl said.

Thuryl and Slartucker snuck out of the forum as the perfected rat stood back up. It charged into the Spiderwebbers, killing Dintiradan and knocking the Deth Ray over once more.

"How do we kill this thing?" Alec demanded.

"Or at least immobilize until we can think of a way to kill it," Lazarus said.

"It's a pity we can't just cast mass spineshield and let it kill itself," Synergy said.

Archmagus Micael cast slow on the perfected rat. The perfected rat hasted itself, dodged Lazarus's weapon, and killed him.

"How long do you think it will take to turn the Deth Ray into a freezing ray that will trap the perfected rat in a block of ice?" Zephyr Tempest said.

Zeviz shook his head. "Too long. I could try to web it, but that would only be temporary."

"Try it," Archmagus Micael said.

"Bind foe!" Zeviz said. The perfected rat was covered in a mass of sticky webs. The perfected rat paused to sweep them off and then launched a firebolt. Zeviz and Archmagus Micael ducked out of the way.

"Well, it will work until we run out of spell energy," Zeviz said, "Bind foe!"

As the perfected rat started to free itself, Archmagus Micael hit it with another bind foe spell.

"I know! What about summoning a perfected cat?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"Is that even possible?" Nemesis asked.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out." Zephyr Tempest moved towards the General Forum.

"Wait!" Garrison stopped him. "We don't know what happened in there to set Nikki off."

---

Randomizer and Zorro backed up a few more steps and leaned over the railing. The water was pouring in faster than Ocean Bound could suck it up.

"One of us has to shut the door somehow," Randomizer said.

Zorro and Randomizer looked at each other for a moment. Then Zorro knocked Randomizer over the railing. Randomizer hit the water with a splash, vanished under it, and came back up again. "What was that for?" he sputtered.

"So you can shut the door," Zorro said.

"Oh, all right." Randomizer started to swim towards the door. The current of water rushing in was strong and the water was far too deep for him to touch, so he kept close to the wall for support as he swam towards the door.

---

Slartucker and Thuryl practically collided with Stareye, Drakefyre, and Jumpin' Salmon in the Announcements Forum.

"Where are you doing?" Stareye asked.

"The perfected rat is being kept alive by some sort of machinery. We can't bring the rat down until we find it and destroy it," Slartucker said.

"I'll come with you and Drakefyre can help hold off the perfected rat," Stareye said.

Slartucker, Thuryl, and Stareye exited.

Jumpin' Salmon picked up the Heartstriker Bow that the perfected rat had tossed aside. "I'm ready. Let's get it, Drakey."

---

Zorro stood on the highest step now with the water almost at his feet. He watched as Randomizer reached the door and tried to push it shut against the water flowing in. Finally, Randomizer managed it and began to swim back towards the stairs. Zorro sighed in relief.

---

The four rats searched the Geneforge Series Forum for a boat.

"Ah, here we are," one of the red rats said.

"I don't know. It's so pixelated," a giant rat said.

"It will do," said the other giant rat.

The rats climbed inside and waited. A short time later, Slartucker, Stareye, and Thuryl passed through.

"So exactly where do you think the machinery will be?" Slartucker asked.

"In the passage beyond the cave where the summoning machine was. That's where the perfected rat came from," Thuryl said.

"What do you think they're doing?" one of the rats asked.

"I don't know. Let's follow them," said a second.

"And leave the boat?" asked a third.

"We've got plenty of time until the water reaches us. Come on," said the second.

The four rats followed a safe distance behind.

---

Drakefyre and Jumpin' Salmon entered the Tech Support Forum. Archmagus Micael and Zeviz were keeping the perfected rat trapped in webs while Wanderer, the Lurker, and Nioca were fixing up the Deth Ray. Everyone else stood back to avoid getting killed by the perfected rat.

"I'm almost out of spell energy," Archmagus Micael said.

"Me too," said Zeviz.

Drakefyre cast forcecage, trapping the perfected rat in a magical cage.

"That won't stop it for long, though," Garrison said.

Sure enough, the perfected rat broke free a moment later. Jumpin' Salmon aimed the Heartstriker Bow and fired. The perfected rat dodged it.

"Oh, come on!" said Jumpin' Salmon.

Drakefyre cast forcecage on the perfected rat again.

Zephyr Tempest looked around to make sure no one was watching him and yanked the door to the General Forum open.

"Zephyr!" Garrison said.

A wave of water flooded in, sweeping up everything and everyone in its path.

Chapter 38: Woad Rage

Chapter 38: Woad Rage Dikiyoba Thu, 07/31/2008 - 23:29
Everything in the Tech Support Forum was caught up in the rush of water. Riibu--still invisible--and the nymphs climbed onto an empty crate.

After the surge subsided, Ephesos bobbed to the surface. He held his crickets above the water in one hand and treaded water. Jumpin' Salmon swam by and splashed him.

"Hey!" Ephesos wiped the water off his face and looked around. "Where's everyone else?"

"They must have gotten swept into the Announcements Forum."

"And the perfected rat?"

"I don't know. Let's hope it drowned," Jumpin' Salmon said.

Something grabbed Ephesos's foot, threatening to pull him under. Whatever it was let go. A moment later, Randomizer surfaced, coughing and spluttering.

"Hi!" Jumpin' Salmon said.

"You're just lucky I managed to close the door outside before you all opened the door to General," Randomizer said.

An upturned table with several rats on it floated into the forum. The rats attempted to paddle away from the Spiderwebbers.

Randomizer pointed at them. "Spray..."

Ephesos pulled his hands down. "Leave them alone. They won't harm us."

"Say, is the water going down?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"I hope so. It means that Ocean Bound is working," Randomizer said.

"I'm not even going to try to puzzle that one out," Ephesos said.

The crate with nymphs and Riibu as passengers bobbed into the Announcements Forum.

"Let's see how the others are doing," Randomizer said.

They swam into the Announcements Forum. Zephyr Tempest was floating on his back with a stunned expression on his face. "I'm wet."

Jumpin' Salmon splashed him. "Now you're even wetter."

Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer struggled through the water and grabbed the floating crate.

"Children! You're safe!" Filth Finder said.

Riibu slipped off the crate without being noticed and entered the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

Ephesos swam towards that forum as well. "Come on!"

---

Thuryl, Slartucker, and Stareye reached the cave with the ruined summoning machine. The four rats were right behind them.

Thuryl pointed to the tunnel at the far end of the cave. "That's where the perfected rat came from." He led the way down the tunnel into another cave full of machinery.

Slartucker looked around. The door to the vat the perfected rat had been created in hung open and the power spiral controlling it was dark. A larger power spiral was connected to a control panel. There was also a pylon guarding the control panel. It charged up as it sensed the presence of the Spiderwebbers.

"Get back!" Slartucker said.

The three of them retreated into the tunnel as the pylon released a bolt of magical energy where they had been standing.

"You take care of the pylon and I'll mess with the control panel," Stareye said.

"Right." Slartucker stuck his head into the cave. The pylon fired again. Slartucker ducked to avoid the blast. Then the three of them ran for the control panel while the pylon recharged. They ducked behind it as the pylon fired again. Thuryl and Slartucker jumped back up immediately. Thuryl hacked at the pylon, creating several large cracks in it.

"Udder destruction!" Slartucker yelled. The spell caused the pylon to explode in crystal fragments and goo.

Stareye stood up and began messing with the controls.

"Well? Can you weaken the perfected rat?" Slartucker said.

The four rats stood unnoticed in the tunnel.

"Did you hear that? They're going to disable the perfected rat!" one whispered.

"I thought we didn't like the perfected rat."

"We don't. But we don't like the humans either. I think we should let the perfected rat kill them all. Then we can disable this machinery and kill the perfected rat."

"But that means we have to kill these humans first."

"Yes. We all know what do to, right?"

Stareye adjusted a knob on the control panel. "I believe so. Just let me... hey!" One of the red rats knocked Stareye flat.

"Udder destruc..." The other red rat tripped up Slartucker.

Thuryl drew his sword and killed one of the giant rats. Stareye got back up and crushed the red rat under his heel. Slartucker got the last two rats with his udder destruction spell. They looked around for more rats but saw none.

"That was kind of pathetic," Slartucker said.

"What do you mean by 'kind of'?" Thuryl asked.

Stareye played with a few of the controls. The power spiral suddenly went dark. "Ah! There we go!"

Most people had been carried into the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum, where the water spread out until it was only about knee deep. The perfected rat was the first to recover. It killed Archmagus Micael. Zeviz cast bind foe and stumbled back as the perfected rat lunged at him. The water made the webs especially gooey and the perfected rat had trouble freeing itself. The other Spiderwebbers reclaimed their weapons and looked at the perfected rat uncertainly.

"Do we try to kill it or what?" Marlenny asked.

"I have a better idea!" Andraste waded towards it and bashed it repeatedly over the head.

Arancaytar said, "Well, knocking it unconscious will..."

"No!" Tyranicus yelled.

"What?" Arancaytar asked.

"At this rate, the perfected rat will delay the release of G4. And if G4 is delayed then Nethergate 2.0 will also be delayed. I can't let that happen!" Tyranicus dropped his javelins and pulled off his shirt.

"Wait, what are you doing?" Arancaytar asked.

Tyranicus smeared woad haphazardly over his upper body, drew his sword, and splashed towards the perfected rat.

"Tyran, the perfected rat is still immortal. You don't stand a chance!" Arancaytar called after him.

Though severely dazed by the blows, the perfected rat pushed Andraste away. She fell into the water. The perfected rat raised a paw to cast a spell.

It halted suddenly. The glow surrounding it faded slightly. "It can't be!" The perfected rat hasted itself and ran for the Announcements Forum. Tyranicus changed direction and raced after it.

"The rat is mortal. Finish it off!" Drakefyre said.

Tyranicus was right on the perfected rat's tail now. It knew it couldn't afford to kill him. It had to escape immediately, before the other Spiderwebbers caught it. It dodged around MagmaDragoon.

Student of Trinity slung a rock at the rat but missed. "The rat's going to escape before we can bring it down."

Jumpin' Salmon, Ephesos, Randomizer, and Zephyr Tempest waded into the forum, blocking the perfected rat's escape route.

"Out of my way!" it squeaked, preparing to cast a spell. Zephyr Tempest, Randomizer, and Ephesos all prepared to cast spells as well.

The perfected rat didn't realize it was running straight for Riibu. She stuck an invisible foot out. The perfected rat tripped over it and fell with a splash.

"For the sidhe!" Tyranicus ran the rat through and then leapt back to avoid being clawed.

Everyone watched anxiously as the perfected rat staggered half-way up before collapsing.

"Is it dead?" Riibu reappeared a safe distance away from the rat.

"Yes, I think... gah! What was that for?" Tyranicus ducked out of the way as Randomizer cast spray acid on the perfected rat.

"I just wanted to make absolutely sure the rat was dead," Randomizer said.

Ephesos carefully inspected the perfected rat. "It's definitely dead."

The Stew Boy looked down. "Hey, the water's only to my ankles now!"

"Good," Drakefyre "Then there's still a good chance we can clean everything up in time for Geneforge 4's release."

---

Zorro watched as Ocean Bound continued to suck up all the water. He decided to see how much of the lake was left, so he entered the second-story room and looked out. To his surprise, most of the water was gone and it seemed like it was dropping. "But... but where is it all going?"

---

The water had flooded most of the Avernum Trilogy Forum by now and began to flow into the Blades of Exile Forum.

Chapter 39: Tullegolar's Concluding Resolution

Chapter 39: Tullegolar's Concluding Resolution Dikiyoba Fri, 08/01/2008 - 00:43
Ocean Bound sucked up the last of the water in the General Forum. Zorro descended the steps and picked the game up. The surviving rats drew away from him and huddled in a corner. Zorro pointed at them.

"Don't even think about going anywhere."

The rats squeaked a bit but didn't object.

Zorro made his way to the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. Nioca and Ephesos tended to injured Spiderwebbers. The Mystic scurried about, packing anything that looked even remotely valuable into his bag. Slartucker, Stareye, and Thuryl arrived back from the Blades of Avernum Forum.

"So we've won?" Thralni asked.

"Woot!" Tyranicus said.

"There are still a few rats left," Zorro said.

"They should be easy enough to deal with. A few rounds of spray acid will do the trick," Randomizer said.

"No!" Slartucker said, "Without a leader, they're mostly harmless. I'm sure we can resolve this peacefully."

"We could probably repair the summoning machine, reverse it, and send the rats back to wherever they came from," Schrodinger said.

"I'll talk to the rats." Ephesos left.

"Stareye and I will try to restore deleted accounts. Mages, Zorro, revive people," Drakefyre said, "Even Emperor Tullegolar." Drakefyre and Stareye left.

"You do still have Galactic Core, right?" Zeviz asked.

Zorro pulled it out of his pocket.

"Let's hope no one else has vandalized the Periodic Table of Spiderweb," Randomizer said, "Oh, and we need to revive Delicious Vlish, so we need the antimatter machine set up."

"I'll see what I can do," Schrodinger said. Schrodinger, the mages, and Zorro exited.

The Mystic decided he was done scavenging in this forum and scampered into the lower forums.

---

While Drakefyre attempted to restore the deleted accounts, Stareye replaced the old lock with a hand-print scanner. "There. Now all we need to do is add all the mods' handprints into the system."

Drakefyre slipped a switch on the administrator panel and Alorael, Imban, Nikki, Ash Lael, and Rakshasi were a brought back with a flash. Alorael's rifle appeared a moment later. Alorael caught it before it hit the ground.

"All right, all non-mods out of this forum right now," Stareye said, "Go help repair the flood damage."

Rakshasi, Ash Lael, and Nikki sensed that Stareye was in a rather bad mood and hurried out of the forum.

"Would you see how everyone is doing?" Stareye asked Imban.

"Of course." Imban left as well.

"Now," Stareye said, "We have to decide who deserves punishment for their part in this whole mess."

---

Schrodinger searched the Tech Support Forum for the antimatter machine. He found the crate upside down in a corner. The crate was battered and splintered, but when Schrodinger opened it, he could immediately tell that the machine was okay. He found the driest spot possible and began to put it together.

---

In the General Forum, Scum Scavenger and the other nine nymphs watched Ephesos from between Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer. He approached the rats with his arms spread wide as a gesture of peace. The rats squeaked nervously and backed away.

"What does he want?"

"Should we surrender?"

"No way! You heard what Outwitter of Mazes said about humans. They eat their own babies! Just imagine what they'd do to us!"

"Attorosi lied," Ephesos said, "We don't eat children. Um, as a general rule, I mean, I'm not entirely sure about Enraged Slith and I'm sure if Thuryl had the proper motiva... never mind. Anyway, if you surrender you'll be allowed to leave here peacefully as long as you promise not to attack Spiderweb or any other human settlements ever again. I'm sure it won't take much for someone to repair and reverse the summoning machine and send you back into Smoo's scenario."

"That won't be necessary. We'll just leave as soon it's safe to open the door," a rat said.

Zorro and the mages arrived just in time to overhear the rat.

"Oh, it should be safe by now. The water was going down quite rapidly. It's probably gone completely by now." Zorro opened the door. There were still several very large puddles but the lake was gone.

"Okay... where did all the water go?" Zeviz asked.

---

The Mystic reached the Blades of Exile Forum. Instead of finding things to scavenge, he found the entire forum covered in several feet of water. He was so surprised that he dropped his pack and ran off to warn the others.

---

The rats watched Ephesos, Zorro, and the mages warily.

"So, we'll just be going now," a rat said.

"But where will you go?" Ephesos asked.

"Oh, you know..." The rat waved its paw in a vague direction, "...to yonder lands, I suppose."

"All right." Ephesos stepped out of the way.

"Are you sure you don't just want me to cast spray acid on..."

"No!" Ephesos, Zorro, and Zeviz said at once.

"Yeah, ice spells are much better," Zephyr Tempest said.

The rats scampered out of the forum. When the last one was gone, Randomizer leaned out the door, yelling, "And don't you come back!"

Zeviz pulled Randomizer back inside. "Come on. We have to revive people, remember?"

---

Nikki, Rakshasi, and Ash Lael joined everyone in the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. Zorro had left Ocean Bound behind to remove the remaining water.

"What are we supposed to do with all these dead rats?" Nikki kicked one and made a face.

Slartucker handed Nikki a shovel. "Start digging."

The Mystic arrived. "Most of the other forums have flooded!"

"Someone go grab another copy of Ocean Bound the throw them both into the flooded forums," Andraste said.

"I don't think we have another copy of Ocean Bound. It's a terrible game that no one wants to play," Student of Trinity said.

"We'll just have to make do with one, then. But it could take a long time to absorb all the water." Slartucker picked up Ocean Bound and left.

---

Zephyr Tempest, Randomizer, Zeviz, and Zorro had made a lot of progress reviving people. So far, they had revived Dintiradan, Jewels, Archmagus Micael, Lazarus, and Mysterious Man.

"So what happened with the rest of the rats?" Archmagus Micael asked.

"They basically surrendered so we let them go," Ephesos said.

"Oh. It's just like Redwall!" Jewels said.

"Um, right," Ephesos said.

"Who do we have left?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"Delicious Vlish, Kelandon, Enraged Slith, Lazarus, and Tullegolar," Archmagus Micael said.

"That reminds me. Jewels, ET vandalized the Periodic Table," Randomizer said.

"What!" Jewels huffed, "He messed with my Table?"

"Don't worry, we fixed it," Randomizer said.

"Well, okay, but I still have to make sure it doesn't happen again." Jewels pulled the chart off of the wall and tucked it under her arm. "I'll be back soon." She left the message board.

---

Slartucker entered the Blades of Exile Forum and threw Ocean Bound into the water. He watched for a while. Slowly, very slowly, the water began to go down. Slartucker sighed. "This could take a very long time."

---

The mages and Zorro had now revived everyone but Delicious Vlish and Emperor Tullegolar. They hesitated for a moment.

"Someone has to revive Tullegolar," Zorro said impatiently.

Schrodinger entered. "I've got the antimatter machine up."

"I'll summon the helium!" Randomizer said quickly.

"I guess I'll summon dysprosium, then," Archmagus Micael said.

Randomizer and Schrodinger entered the Tech Support Forum. Zorro quickly combined the dysprosium with Galactic Core and entered the Tech Support as well.

Emperor Tullegolar was revived. "So you finally got around to reviving me, huh? I'll remember this when I begin the Concluding Resolution and..."

"Oh, shut up." Kelandon picked up a can of spam and hurled it at Emperor Tullegolar.

---

In the Tech Support Forum, Randomizer summoned some helium. Schrodinger ran it through the antimatter machine and Zorro quickly combined the resulting antihelium with Galactic Core. Delicious Vlish was revived.

---

Alorael sat in the corner cleaning his sniper rifle while Drakefyre and Stareye talked. Stareye said, "Unfortunately, I had to promise not to ban Dintiradan, Wanderer, and the Lurker, otherwise I would."

"What about Smoo?" Drakefyre asked.

"He didn't actually build the summoning machine. Besides, he's a scenario designer. But we can ban Tullegolar, Nemesis, and Garrison."

"Nemesis and Garrison didn't know what Tullegolar was up to. And I wouldn't even ban him--he's funny."

Stareye crossed his arms. "Three weeks."

Drakefyre shook his head. "No. Only one."

"Two weeks"

"One and a half."

"Fine. One and a half weeks."

"Wait!" Alorael rummaged around in his pocket. "I'll give you..." He pulled out a coin. "...a quarter if you ban him for two and a half weeks."

"Done." Drakefyre took the quarter. "And you get to go throw him off of the message board. Leave your sniper rifle here, because I doubt that he'll go quietly and I don't think you want to risk damaging it. And while you're out there, hang this maintenance sign on the door." Drakefyre handed Alorael a sign. Alorael giggled wickedly and ran off.

When Alorael was gone, Stareye rounded on Drakefyre. "You're letting yourself be bribed for only a quarter now?"

"Relax." Drakefyre pushed a few buttons on the administrator panel. Are you sure you want to ban Imban 7420? Drakefyre pushed the enter button. "I needed to get rid of him. The new arrivals could be here any minute and Alorael hasn't sniped any pedestrians for days. They'd be targets he just couldn't pass up."

"So... you're banning him?" Stareye said.

"Yes. By accident, of course." Drakefyre pushed a button.

Are you sure you want to ban Imban 335?

Drakefyre pushed the enter button.

---

Kelandon and Emperor Tullegolar were arguing when Alorael snuck up behind Emperor Tullegolar and started dragging him away by the collar of his shaper robes. "...are so weak. I'll... hey! What are you doing?"

Alorael opened the door and stepped outside, pulling Emperor Tullegolar with him. "For the Concluding Resolution, Ego!" Alorael threw Emperor Tullegolar into the mud.

"You're at the top of my list, Alorael. Well, actually, you're still below Stareye." Emperor Tullegolar got up and reached for the door knob. A magical barrier flared up quickly, throwing Emperor Tullegolar back into the mud. "Not again! Curse you, Stareye!"

"Two and a half weeks." Alorael hung the CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE sign on the door.

Emperor Tullegolar stomped off, raging. "You will see me in two and a half weeks, then. By that time, I'll probably have my own army, so you and Stareye had better watch out!"

Alorael giggled again and reached for the door knob. A blast of energy knocked him backwards. "What is this?!"

Chapter 40: Cleaning Up

Chapter 40: Cleaning Up Dikiyoba Fri, 08/01/2008 - 00:44
Slartucker, Schrodinger, and Drakefyre slowly watched the water recede from the Blades of Exile Forum.

"We'll be lucky if all this water is gone by the time Geneforge 4 is released, let alone have them dried out and cleaned up," Slartucker said.

Schrodinger shrugged. "Most new arrivals will stay in the Geneforge 4 Forum for a while. They won't even notice."

Slartucker said, "Do you know what will happen to this copy of Ocean Bound once we're done here, Drakefyre? If it springs a leak..."

"I have a plan for it, yes," Drakefyre said, "Just wait and see."

---

Nikki used his shovel to tip a few dead rats into the hole he had just finished digging. Then he filled in the hole. As he turned to walk away, he slipped and fell into the mud. He got up, grumbling, "This is ridiculous."

Delicious Vlish hovered a foot above the muddy ground. He looked over the forum carefully. The rats were gone and everything was about as good as it could get until the forum dried out a bit. "All right, this place looks good. For now."

"Finally!" Nikki would have been the first into the Announcements Forum, but he slipped and fell into the mud again. Marlenny paused to help him up and hand him a towel so he could clean himself off.

Stareye, Arancaytar, and Mysterious Man were in the Announcements Forum. Stareye was adding Arancaytar's handprint to the security system so he could get into the Moderator Board.

"So, I still get backdoor access, right?" Mysterious Man asked.

"I'm afraid not," Stareye said.

"But I used to be a mod!"

"I'm sorry, but not anymore."

"Fine." Mysterious Man stalked off.

Everyone from the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum passed by. Stareye quickly sought out the Spiderwebbers he was looking for.

"Dintiradan, Wanderer, the Lurker, would you stay a moment, please?"

The three of them stopped and waited for everyone else to leave.

"What do you want? Remember what you said earlier; you can't punish us for anything," Dintiradan said.

"That's true. But I can make you stay and clean up all the mud that people tracked into this forum out of the goodness of your hearts," Stareye said.

"I don't have any goodness in my heart," Dintiradan said.

Stareye handed Dintiradan a mop. "Oh, but I think you do."

Stareye and Arancaytar walked into the Tech Support Forum before Dintiradan could respond.

Dintiradan handed the mop to Wanderer. "Great. Just great. I should be plotting how to convince all the lurkers that will come out for the release of G4 to join my Legion of Terror, not cleaning things."

The Lurker grabbed a second mop and joined Wanderer. "You know, I've been thinking. Being evil is fun. Well, right now it isn't, but most of the time it is. I want to rejoin your Legion of Terror."

"Why should I let you?" Dintiradan asked.

"Because right now your only other follower is Wanderer. Besides, I brought you Homeland."

Dintiradan thought for a moment. "Hmm. That is true. All right, you're back in."

"Yay!" the Lurker said.

---

In the General Forum, Nikki wiped the last of the mud off of himself. "Hey, Stareye, I have a great idea. You know how in all the games, whenever you kill something, their body disappears and only a bloodstain is left behind? These boards should work like that too. That way we don't always have to do something with the bodies every time we get attacked."

"It would clear up what happens to our old bodies once we get revived," Tyranicus said.

"And it will make it easier to loot stuff because all their stuff ends up directly on the ground to be picked up," the Mystic said.

"But then how do we deal with the bloodstains?" Stareye asked.

"I don't know," Nikki said, "But I think they fade with time."

"I'll think about it," Stareye said.

---

Alorael hammered on the outside door. "This isn't funny! Let me in! What if a pedestrian comes by while I'm stuck out here? Come on, Drakey, Stareye, let me in!"

Alorael paused and waited. When there was no response, he slumped to the ground and consoled himself with a bottle of skribbane.

A short while later, Jewels returned to the message board with the Periodic Table of Spiderwebbers tucked under her arm. "What are you doing out here?" she asked in surprise.

"I've been banned for some unknown reason. Isn't it horrible?"

"Don't worry, I'll talk to Drakefyre and Stareye for you." Jewels took down the sign, opened the door and stepped inside.

"Hey, Jewels," Lazarus said, "Where have you been?"

Jewels hung the chart back on the wall. "I had the Periodic Table of Spiderwebbers laminated. No one will be able to mess with my chart again. Oh, and Stareye, Alorael is... Stareye? Where'd he go?"

Stareye had mysteriously slipped out of the General Forum while Jewels had hung up the chart.

---

Meanwhile, Drakefyre, Schrodinger, and Slartucker had moved into the Blades of Avernum Forum and were examining the cave the rats had used. Schrodinger was taking the summoning machine apart for later inspection. Drakefyre destroyed all the notes and equipment that had created the perfect rat. Slartucker searched the rest of the caves for anything interesting.

Drakefyre burned the last few pages of notes as Slartucker entered.

"I searched the rest of the caves. Nothing."

Schrodinger entered the labratory as well. "I've got the summoning machine all boxed up. All we have to do is carry it out of here."

"You two do that. I'll check on the lower forums again," Drakefyre said.

Slartucker and Schrodinger each grabbed a box and started carrying it back. Along the way, they ran into Dikiyoba.

"What are you doing here?" Slartucker asked.

"Dikiyoba is collecting alchemical herbs for more potions."

"Great."

---

The GIFTRs were in the Tech Support Forum, piling all the equipment they had found against the wall, when Schrodinger, Slartucker, and Dikiyoba entered.

Slartucker set his box down. "What are you doing?"

"We're helping clean up," Filth Finder said.

"I can that. It's just not very organized," Slartucker said.

"Well, it's hard to get everything in a nice neat stack when you don't have opposable thumbs!" Litter Locater chirped.

"Don't be rude," Garbage Gatherer said, "Anyway, we've done what we could. We're off to the Avernum 4 Forum now."

The GIFTRs scuttled off.

Dikiyoba sorted through the mess until Dikiyoba found enough alchemical equipment to begin potion making.

---

Drakefyre entered the Blades of Exile Forum. The water was just about gone. He picked up Ocean Bound and carried it into the lower forums. The Avernum Trilogy and Exile Trilogy Forums were choking masses of steam now that enough water was gone for the pools of lava to flow again. He hurried through them as quickly as possible. Then he entered the Nethergate Forum and sighed. The flood damage was so bad that it was clear an entire overhaul and redesign was necessary. What hadn't been destroyed in the initial rush of water was waterlogged and warped. Next, Drakefyre examined the Richard White Games Forum. It was dry, almost as if the flood had receded two weeks ago from next Tuesday instead of just moments ago. Then Drakefyre peered into the SubTerra Forum and saw that it was still completely flooded. He dropped Ocean Bound into it and headed back towards the General Forum.

---

Dintiradan examined the Announcements Forum floor. "It looks clean."

"Oh, good." The Lurker set his mop down. Wanderer followed suit.

Drakefyre crossed the forum, leaving as much mud on the floor as he could.

"Hey! What was that for?" Dintiradan demanded.

Drakefyre paused, walked back towards Dintiradan (leaving more mud on the floor in the process), and handed the mop to Dintiradan. "So you can do your fair share of the clean up work. Wanderer, the Lurker, follow me."

"But... but..." The Lurker hesitated.

"Do you really want to mop some more? Come on," Wanderer whispered.

Wanderer and the Lurker followed Drakefyre and Dintiradan was left alone. He grumbled as he halfheartedly dipped the mop into a bucket of water and began mopping.

---

In the corner of the General Forum, Jumpin' Salmon and Andraste were talking.

"So, where did you learn how to wield those clubs of yours?" Jumpin' Salmon asked.

"From the Kingdom of Loathing," Andraste said.

"Uh-huh. That doesn't sound pleasant at all," Jumpin' Salmon said.

Kingy overheard them as he grabbed another beer. "No, it's a fun game."

Andraste and Jumpin' Salmon continued to talk as the first newbie entered Spiderweb Software Forum.

"...if I play as a turtle tamer, I can control the fluffy turtles, right?" Salmon said.

"I'm afraid not, but if..." Andraste said.

"Hi! Welcome to Spiderweb Software. Leave your sanity at the door!" Nioca said.

The newbie put his sanity in a nearby jar. "Um, hello. I... I heard that Geneforge 4: Rebellion will be released soon?"

"It will be. We were waiting for the Geneforge 4 Forum to dry out a bit, but it's done that now," Drakefyre said.

"Let's go there, then!" MagmaDragoon struggled to stand up in his armor and made a clanky exit. Many other Geneforge fans followed him. The newbie hesitated.

"Oh, and there's someone out there. I don't really know who he is but he called himself Alorael. He was complaining about being banned or something."

Drakefyre feigned surprise. "Oh, really? What an awful mistake. I'll go fix that right away." Drakefyre left.

The newbie followed the stragglers down to the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

Nikki looked around at those who were left. "So, now what do the rest of us do?"

"We design for BoA!" Ephesos got up and left. Lazarus, Niemand, Nemesis, and a few others followed.

"And what are the rest of the rest of us supposed to do?" Nikki asked.

"...pulverize antiques," Andraste said.

"Ooh, that sounds like fun," Jumpin' Salmon said.

"It is. And..." Andraste said.

"Hey, Kelandon, you know that slith poetry you've been working on? Why don't you recite some of that?" Marlenny asked.

Kelandon coughed nervously. "Well, okay. This is written in one of the most ancient dialects of the slithzerakai language. It's so old that it was practically forgotten when the sliths of Bahssikava..."

"We get the idea. Just give us the poetry!" Jewels said.

Kelandon looked even more nervous. "Well, okay. Here goes..." He recited a few lines.

Halfway through the first stanza, Nikki leapt up. "Poetry! It's beautiful! I love you, Kel!" He hugged Kelandon.

"What!? Hey, get away from me!" Kelandon said.

Arancaytar sighed in relief. "Good. Maybe he'll forget about me."

"Moxious!" Jumpin' Salmon yelled. Everyone turned to look at him. "What? Can't you see we're having a private conversation here?"

Chapter 41: A Newbie Turn of Events

Chapter 41: A Newbie Turn of Events Dikiyoba Fri, 08/01/2008 - 00:45
The next day saw a figure concealed entirely in tattered black robes standing on the hill overlooking the Spiderweb Software Message Board. He sighed. "Ohhhhhh. Nalyd is so alone. Everyone hates him. Everyone..."

"Hello! Who is Nalyd? And do you want to see pictures of my cat Worf? They're funny!" Sarasaphilia caught up to Nalyd.

Nalyd glared at Sarasaphilia from underneath his hood. "Can't you see that Nalyd is busy being alone and hated? Go away."

"Um, all right," Sarasaphilia said.

"What's going on?" Actaeon joined Sarasaphilia and Nalyd. He had a bow slung over his shoulder.

"Geneforge 4 just came out. Oh, and do you want to see pictures of my cat?"

"Greetings!" Emperor Tullegolar stepped out of the shadows. "I can see that you are all new to the message board, so let me explain some things. I am Emperor Tullegolar. I was recently and unfairly banned from Spiderweb due to the tyrannical tendencies of the admins and many other oldbies. So when you enter Spiderweb, don't throw your lot in with them, or you'll come to grief. Join me instead and I will usher in a new era of order and prosperity as soon as my ban ends."

"Well..." Sarasaphilia began.

"Don't listen to him. He's a Shaper. See, he has Shaper robes on. Everyone knows shaping is evil." Kyrek joined the group.

"What are you, some sort of Trakovite?" Emperor Tullegolar demanded.

Kyrek puffed out his chest proudly. "As a matter of fact, I am."

Emperor Tullegolar spit at Kyrek's feet. "Don't listen to him, he's an idiot."

"But shaping has caused so much destruction and disease. Plus, it drives people mad."

"Only because they're too weak to handle it. Shaping will result in the perfection of humanity, and I will be the one to achieve it."

"You know, I'm not really sure about that," Actaeon said, "I think I'll go to the message board and find out what it's like before I make any decisions."

"Just remember that my side is the right side. If anyone tells you otherwise, they're wrong." Emperor Tullegolar stalked off.

Kyrek, Actaeon, and Sarasaphilia started towards the message board.

"Shouldn't we ask that other guy to come with us?" Actaeon asked.

"Nah, he wants to be alone." Sarasaphilia said.

Nalyd sighed again. "Nobody likes Nalyd. Why does nobody like him?"

Upon Mars climbed the hill. "wow oh wow genforce 4! its truely extravagant"

"Gah! Learn correct spelling and grammar or Nalyd will be forced to destroy you!"

Upon Mars backed off. "you have to understand that nicity between fellow man makes us more closer to perfection than..."

The air around Nalyd suddenly grew cold and he lunged towards Upon Mars. "Nalyd warned you about correct spelling and grammar!"

Upon Mars ran off with Nalyd in pursuit. "no you have to understand understand! im dysalexic!"

"Nalyd doesn't care! Once he catches you, you will be as hated as he is until you learn correct spelling and grammar!"

"no let me be! help! hlp!"

---

Kyrek, Sarasaphilia, and Actaeon entered the General Forum. Only a few Spiderwebbers were present and most of them were asleep.

"Um, hello." Sarasaphilia looked around uncertainly.

Nikki sat up and yawned. "Meh. More new arrivals. Welcome, leave your sanity at the door, and all that."

"Oh, right." Actaeon deposited his sanity in the appropriate jar with some difficulty, as it was already full.

"Where is everyone else?" Kyrek asked.

"They're already in the G4 Forum. It's much livelier down there."

"Oh, okay then. Thanks," Kyrek said.

---

Sarasaphilia, Actaeon, and Kyrek went to the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. Spiderwebbers, old and new, were everywhere, and their enthusiasm was palpable. A large fountain stood in the middle of the forum but other than that it was dry and bare. It was still fairly obvious that a fight had occurred there recently, though.

"What is that?" Sarasaphilia pointed towards the fountain.

"I think it's a model of the geneforge," Actaeon said.

"But shaping is... hey!" A drop of water fell in Kyrek's eye. He wiped it out and looked up. It was hard to see at first glance, but there was clearly a sprinkler system on the ceiling.

"What is that for?" Sarasaphilia asked.

Delicious Vlish floated up to them. "See how dry and barren this forum is? Soon, we will plant grass and trees here. The sprinkler system is for them. We would have had it done already if not for... certain recent events. At least we got the main component of the sprinkler system from it." Delicious Vlish pointed out Ocean Bound at the center of the sprinkler system.

"Yay! Geneforge 4 is almost out!" Nioca grabbed Sarasaphilia and danced around in a circle with him. "Haha! I'm so excited!"

Sarasaphilia looked bewildered. "Wha...?"

Dintiradan, with Wanderer and the Lurker in tow, chased after lurkers. "Hey, you. You look familiar, but I've never spoken with you before. Are you a lurker?"

The lurker turned and hurried away. Dintiradan followed him. "Ha! You are! Join my Legion of Terror! I pay well! Plus, you'll live when I take over the forums!"

Wanderer said, "I didn't know we had anything to pay them with."

"We don't, but I'm sure we'll find something once we rule these forums." Dintiradan set his sights on another lurker. "Hey, you! I want to talk to you for a minute!"

Student of Trinity and a few others were telling a group of newbies highly dubious tales about their testing experiences.

"...Jeff took it out, but in the original version the rotghroth in the Wrecked Labs would tell knock-knock jokes. They were pretty good ones too, but if you had used too many canisters you would just get enraged and you'd have to fight him," Student of Trinity said.

Slartucker looked up from some preliminary notes he was taking. "I heard the ornk is the best creation you can make in the game. Is that true?"

"Almost. If you find all three canisters of create ornk, you can create oozebeasts. Those are definitely the best creations in the game," Randomizer said.

"No, there are only two canisters of create ornk in the game. You have to breed the oozebeast, and it's really hard. Don't try it without at least five points in every shaping skill," Student of Trinity said.

"Wait, you can breed creations? Isn't that new? What can you breed?" a newbie asked.

"Oh, you can breed all the creations you can make. Except for vlish," Alorael said.

"Why not vlish?"

"Because we vlish actually manage to keep our private lives private, silly human," Delicious Vlish said, "Anyway, let me tell you, servile is the worst class to take. You get all excited because you get to use the geneforge and then you spend the rest of the game sweeping, cooking, licking boots, and hiding in terror from rogues. Unless you decide to be one of those mad cultists. The tattoos and spells you learn from them are pretty cool, but the Shapers kill you at the end of the game."

"The best ending is when you end up exiled on Sucia island with the PC from the first game," Randomizer said, "It's really hard to do but manageable."

"Actually, if you play an Infiltrator, you can get that ending really easily. Just another reason infiltrators are the best," Synergy said, "And the rotghroth that tells knock-knock jokes still exists, he's just been relocated to between the zones."

"Oh, right, I forgot about that," Student of Trinity said, "The things merchants will sell you there are great, like "I'm with deadweight" T-shirts for all your creations if you play as a lifecrafter. All the children running around there are annoying, though, and you aren't allowed to kill anything between the zones."

"Wait... is any of this true?" another newbie asked.

Schrodinger walked by with an outline for his walkthrough in hand. "No, they're just messing with you."

"But then what is the game really like?"

"You'll just have to wait and see," Delicious Vlish said.

"But it will be worth it. I liked it, and I don't normally like Geneforge," Alorael said, "Hey! Drakefyre! We need to talk about my temporary ban."

"We've been over this already. It was an accident. No more needs to be said," Drakefyre said.

"Fine. But I will whine about it at every opportunity! So nyah!"

Meanwhile, Slartucker had moved on to where Ash Lael and Thuryl were developing torment-level challenges for each other.

"...using only a stick," Thuryl said.

"No problem. Now for you, hmm..." Ash Lael said.

"No canisters, no trainers, no creations, no magic, and no using skill points. Or, you have to play as a warrior," Slartucker suggested.

"Hmm..." Thuryl thought for a minute.

"Well?" Slartucker asked.

"I'm still thinking about it," Thuryl said, "They both sound difficult."

"The warrior is really easy if you cheat and max out all the stats!" a newbie said.

Thuryl turned around and punched him in the face. The newbie stumbled off.

Slartucker sighed. "Thuryl..."

"I'm pretty sure I did him a favor, actually," Thuryl said with disdain.

Andraste stepped out of Nioca's path as he ran by. "Whoa! Calm down! Why don't you go check to see if it is out by now?"

"Great idea!" Nioca caught Andraste's arm and dragged her into the Tech Support Forum.

"Ugh, what a mess." Andraste looked at the pile of equipment and boxes in disgust. "It will take forever to find it, if it's even here."

"We'd better start looking then." Nioca started sorting through a pile.

Dikiyoba corked an energy potion and joined them. "What are you two looking for?"

Andraste tossed several thorn batons aside. "We're checking for G4."

A strange box materialized at Nioca's feet. "Hey, what's this?" Nioca opened it. "It's copies of the demo of G4! How did they get here?"

"Hey, everyone!" Andraste yelled, "Geneforge 4 is out!" She carried the box into the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

There was some pushing and shoving, but soon everyone had a demo copy. Slartucker immediately started taking notes on the optimal strategy and Schrodinger began work on his walkthrough.

Dikiyoba started to play and then stopped. "Oh no!"

"What is it?" Nioca asked.

"Dikiyoba's copy is running really slowly." Dikiyoba shook the game in an attempt to make it work.

"Oh. Well, you could try... what are you doing?" Nioca said.

Dikiyoba pulled out a haste potion and dunked the game in it. "There. That works. Well, works well enough."

Jumpin' Salmon caught sight of MagmaDragoon exiting the forum. "Hey, Andraste, let's see what he's up to."

Andraste sighed. "Fine."

---

Ephesos and the other BoA designers had returned to the General Forum and were talking when Nalyd entered.

"Welcome to Spiderweb Software. Leave your sanity at the door," Nemesis said.

"Nalyd has no sanity." Nayld shuffled into a corner and sat there, staring at everyone.

Arancaytar shuddered. "I can't quite put my finger on it, but for some reason he creeps me out."

MagmaDragoon, Jumpin' Salmon, and Andraste entered. MagmaDragoon headed for the door.

"Wait, where are you going?" Ephesos asked.

"I have to go for now. I have work that needs to be done before I can play Geneforge 4, and I want to play it as soon as possible. I'll come back eventually, though."

"Drats. Well, good-bye," Ephesos said.

"Bye." MagmaDragoon walked out the door.

"Poor kid. Doesn't he realize that there's nothing great about G4? KoL is where it's at. Come on Andraste, let's go play."

"Sure!" Andraste followed Jumpin' Salmon out the door.

"Is Salmon really gone? Thank goodness," Kelandon said, "If I'd known it was that easy, I'd have tried to get rid of him a long time ago."

A moment later, a newbie walked in. He turned to the sanity jar. "You're jar is full."

"Bad grammar!" Nalyd lurched out of the shadows toward the newbie as the air around him dropped several degrees.

Arancaytar shrank back into a corner. Nikki, however, stuck his foot out and tripped Nalyd. "Leave him alone. That was hardly an error worth worrying about. Wait until a real noob walks in."

Nalyd sighed and returned to his corner. "No one understands Nalyd. No one likes him."

Tyranicus ran through the forum, wearing only pants and woad. "Yes! Geneforge 4 is out! Now Jeff can focus on Nethergate: Resurrection! There's going to be new dungeons and new items and..." Tyranicus tripped over a can of spam and fell to the ground, somehow managing to break his neck in the process. Ephesos sighed and pulled out a Balm of Life potion. He hesitated. "Or should I just leave him until the Nethergate remake comes out?"

---

Emperor Tullegolar stood watching the message board. "And so with the release of Geneforge 4: Rebellion and the influx of newbies, the Spiderweb Software Message Boards is saved from a long, slow decline and the oldbies are secure in their positions of power once more." He kicked a nearby rock angrily. "I hate them all!"