Chapter 21: A Narrow Escape

Chapter 21: A Narrow Escape Dikiyoba
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? 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!"